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Wolf Dog Coalition - Dec. 16, 1996 USDA Administrator Medley letter to Congressman Wolf

December 16, 1996

Honorable Frank R. Wolf
U.S. House of Representatives
241 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4610

Dear Congressman Wolf:

Thank you for your letter of November 18, 1996, on behalf of Mr. Gene Sydnor concerning the classification of wolves and wolf-hybrids for the purposes of vaccine approval.

We certainly understand your and Mr. Sydnor's continue interest in this matter, and we would like to emphasize that our Agency's first priority is to safeguard U.S. agricultural health. Accordingly, ensuring the purity, potency, safety and effectiveness of the vaccines used to prevent rabies and other destructive animal diseases is one of our primary goals. While we are certainly aware of the risks associated with the lack of a rabies vaccine specifically approved for use in wolves and wolf-hybrids, the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not directly prohibit veterinarians or individuals from vaccinating these animals. Our authority in this matter is in determining whether or not to approve a vaccine for use in certain species.

As we have indicated to Dr. Raymond Pierotti, we must also consider all the ramifications involved in determining whether or not dogs and wolves should be classified as members of the same species for the purposes of vaccine approval. It is true that the scientists present at our public meeting agreed that the rabies vaccines currently licensed for use in domestic dogs should also be effective in wolves and wolf-hybrids. However, if we considered wolves and dogs to be members of the same species and to have similar physiology and immune reactions, all vaccines previously approved to prevent other diseases in dogs—such as canine distemper, adenovirus, and parainfluenza—must also be approved for use in wolves and wolf-dog hybrids. When asked whether they would recommend such vaccines for use in wolves and wolf-hybrids without testing to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness, most scientists at the meeting indicated thaty they would not. Further, many believed that the use of some vaccines could actually initiate the onset of disease in wolves or wolf-hybrids.

To date, we have not received sufficient scientific, non-anecdotal evidence to support the approval of a canine rabies vaccine for use in wolves and wolf-hybrids. Nevertheless, as we have informed Dr. Pierotti, we are committed to conducting a review of this issue on a priority basis. Accordingly, we have asked him to submit to us any scietific data or published results of modified live vaccine testing that he or others may have. We assure you and your constituents that we will give all such information full consideration.

Regarding the use of rabies vaccine on wolves in Yellowstone National Park and the Everglades, these animals are under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior's National Park Service. As Federal law does not prohibit the use of rabies vaccines in wolves, the use of such a vaccine is under the purview of that Agency.

  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.


  Terry L. Medley

Copy of original signed letter is available upon request.
Contact The Wolf Dog Coalition ( psykowuf@erols.com ).

Copyright © 1998 Wolf Dog Coalition. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint this letter in its entirety granted.

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