Hannahs Story


Denied an exemption for a rabies vaccination, Hannah’s owner faced a dilemma: administer the potentially harmful injection or risk the consequences of Riverside County Animal Services knowing she kept an unlicensed dog.

Hannah was a rambunctious and affectionate eleven and a half year old spayed standard poodle. To paraphrase Will Rogers, to Hannah there were no strangers, only friends she hadn’t met yet. So when Hannah stopped being energetic and showed signs of being in pain, her owner had her examined by a well respected vet. The diagnosis was numbing: osteosarcoma…bone cancer. The standard medical procedure would have been to amputate the affected leg and half the pelvis. Even then, the likelihood of significantly extending Hannah’s life was small. Hannah’s owner opted to treat her holistically, hoping that this would give Hannah the quality of life she deserved and keep Hannah with her as long as possible. For her owner, every day with Hannah was a blessing.

At the same time, the Riverside County license for Hannah and her two poodle playmates came due. Her owner went to the Coachella Valley Animal Shelter and renewed the licenses for Hannah’s friends. She then explained the nature of Hannah’s disease, produced a letter from her vet recommending against the rabies vaccination, and requested an exemption so that Hannah could be licensed.

The next Saturday morning, the owner received a call from the Coachella Center saying that the request for an exemption had been denied by the Riverside County Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Allan Drusys. She was shocked and distraught. In trying to follow the law and her conscience, she had exposed herself and Hannah to a miserable choice. She appealed the decision and was told that it was firm: there would be no exemption for Hannah.

The owner began to look for help. She appealed to her Riverside County Supervisor and to her California State Assemblyman and Senator. She asked for assistance and advice from dog advocacy groups. A bill, SB 2000* had previously been introduced in the California Legislature by such a group to deal with this exact type of situation. She seriously considered that she might have to move. She had the means and the resolve to take Hannah away from the situation.

Finally, about five weeks after the saga began, the owner received a call from the Coachella Center. The exemption was granted. She could license Hannah.

Hannah passed two weeks later. Her license arrived the same week.

We are left to ask why was this woman put through this? She wanted to be, tried to be the good citizen, do the right thing and follow the law. Her reward was a gut-wrenching ordeal.

* SB 2000 was laid to rest in committee by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-S.D.). Her explanation: “It was political.”