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The following is a letter I am sending to my local Pennsylvania House and Senate members. If you agree with it, please share it. I really hope to make a difference, but I could use all the help I can get.

Dear Your Honor:

My name is Aimee. I’m 24, and I’ve heard all my life that if you want something you care about changed you should “write your local Congressman”. Up until now, I never really put much stock in that phrase. Like so many, over the last few years, I’ve lost faith in our political system. I still vote, because I feel it’s my duty, and I know how hard people have fought to secure me that privilege. I vote on the issues that matter most to me – economics and foreign and domestic policy. I don’t vote on who makes the prettiest speeches or who has the grandest ideas. I was raised by a conservative, practical father, and I consider myself pragmatic and level-headed. I live in reality and can see the system for the misguided nightmare it is. I can also see what it could be.

I therefore understand what you are trying so hard to achieve, and I also understand why you may think you’ve got bigger problems to deal with than what has finally moved me to draft this letter. Please bear with me.

I’m writing on behalf of a Chester County, Pennsylvania resident who doesn’t vote and never will. He’s not going to donate to reelection campaigns, and he can’t call your office to speak for himself. So I’m speaking for him, because that’s my job. His name is Smokey, he’s a four year old, solid black German Shepherd Dog, and I’m his advocate and have been since the day my boyfriend and I rescued him from the Chester County SPCA.

Meet Smokey

Before Joe and I, Smokey had a rough life. I’ll spare you the gory details, but basically Smokey was rescued by the SPCA from a puppy mill type situation. He’d spent the first two years of his life in a small cage with little to no human interaction. That’s where he lost his left ear, how, we don’t know.

We rescued Smokey 12 hours before he was scheduled to be euthanized. After we brought him home, we spent the next year and several thousand dollars getting him healthy, both physically and mentally.

The physically healthy part is what I want to address. When we rescued Smokey, he weighed a meager 66 pounds. It took us almost a year to get him to a normal weight (about 90 pounds). Because of whatever bad breeding practices he is a product of, he has inherited a slew of medical problems ranging from skin conditions to stomach issues.

The medical bills we incur are a small price to pay for the joy he brings us. He’s always up for a hike or to play ball. He loves to cuddle and adores people and learning new tricks almost as much as he loves his little “sister” Shelby, our nine month old German Shepherd. He’s the brightest part of our lives, and he’s an inspiration, which is why we’re trying to work with him toward his therapy dog certification, so he can inspire others like he’s inspired us.

Despite everything he’s been through, Smokey keeps giving and giving, a trait I admire and wish to share with others.

A few days ago, Smokey went to the vet for his routine check-up and annual immunizations. He was inadvertently given a rabies shot though he wasn’t due for one until 2014. Twelve hours later, the reactions started. He stopped eating and drinking, his stomach swelled, he cried out in pain when we touched him, and his knees gave way. The pain prevented him from lying down, so he didn’t sleep for three days. All the while, his temperature climbed. We had him in and out of the vet for four days. Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of a staff who was determined to fix their error, Smokey is on the road to recovery.

Vets can save my dog, but they can’t change laws. That’s why I’m writing to you today. I just hope you’re willing to help.

Chapter 16 of the Pennsylvania Code, Subchapter 16.41, et. seq. is a good law. It keeps most dogs and people safe. But as written, there’s a very real chance that it could kill my dog. In 2015, when Smokey is 7 years old, the law is going to compel me to put my dog through this hell again. It is going to compel me, as a responsible pet owner, to incur the costs of steroids, antihistamines, pain killers and acid reducers with no guarantee that my dog, three years older, with his somewhat frail physical state, is even going to survive.

I’m sorry, but seven years just isn’t enough time. As a pet owner, I know my animals will most likely die before me. I lost a 10 week old puppy to a congenital disease in October of 2011. I couldn’t prevent that, but I can try to prevent this.

Smokey the night the reactions got extremely severe. I have only seen him tuck his tail on the very rare occassion, due to the reaction and the pain, he had it consistently tucked for three days, which was heartbreaking all by itself.

Subchapter 16.41, et. seq. needs to be amended to include medical exemptions for old dogs, sick dogs and dogs who have had a serious reaction to the vaccine before. “Serious” should be defined by a veterinarian, not an attorney. Pet owners should be required to have the proper certification of any of these factors signed by a vet, and should have to apply before their old rabies certification expires, not after. Pet owners could apply through their county courthouse or online, the same way they apply for dog licenses. The courts, in turn, could charge a filing fee which would cover necessary administration expenses and generate revenue for the Commonwealth.

The owners who would apply for such an exemption are responsible pet owners like me. These are people who take their dogs to training classes, apply for their dog licenses, obey leash laws and just generally want to do what’s right by their dogs so they can live a long, healthy, happy life. Responsible pet owners know, for example, that canine rabies has been all but extinct in the US for over five years. They also know that recent studies have shown that the rabies vaccine actually guards a dog for at least seven years.

Irresponsible pet owners don’t vaccinate their dogs to begin with and some owners I’m sure, break the law and don’t vaccinate just so they can protect their dogs.

The idea of such an amendment is in the works, but it’s stalled in the Agriculture Committee. Senate Bill 90 would allow Pennsylvania to join the ranks of states that have included medical exemptions in their rabies laws. SB90 means that Smokey won’t have to die an early death at the hands of the people who are supposed to help him. SB90 means that I will get to enjoy my dog for the duration of his natural life, without fear.

SB90 won’t fix the economy, but it will generate revenue. It won’t put everyone in the state back to work, but it may create a few jobs. But this is an issue that crosses party lines. Dogs don’t appreciate Republicans or Democrats, but they do appreciate people, and I’m sure people on both sides of the political fence appreciate them. This is something I think both sides can agree on and maybe, just maybe, you can give your constituents some of their hope back.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Aimee L. Davis
On behalf of Smokey, a Chesco dog

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