Two Florida Vets May Lose License For Refusing To Turn Over Vaccination Data

Veterinarians Jenny Fortune and Forrest Townsend claim that they may be at risk of losing their medical licenses. And they say it is because they have refused to turn over their clients’ rabies vaccination data to Okalossa County.

City commissioners previously voted that the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society was able to collect rabies vaccination information from veterinarians and use these records to collect a $10 annual licensing fee from pet owners.

Fortune and Townsend refused to give their clients’ information to PAWS, and the organization has filed complaints with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation against the vets and wants their licenses to be revoked if they do not comply.

The two Florida veterinarians said that state law says that vaccination data should be made available to the organization that investigates animal bites. But they said that PAWS does not investigate animal bites and wants to only collect licensing fees from pet owners. Fortune and Townsend also stated that PAWS has a lot of the same veterinary services that they offer and could use the data to undercut their prices.

The County Administrator said only about 3,000 out of 60,000 pet-owning households pay the $10 licensing fee.

The director of animal services for PAWS said that Fortune and Townsend could also get a $500 citation for each day they do not comply.

Source: Northwest Florida Daily News

(Thanks Marie)

20 Responses to “Two Florida Vets May Lose License For Refusing To Turn Over Vaccination Data”

  1. Mikken says:

    Good! I wouldn’t want my vet sharing my pets’ medical information, either. Hopefully these vets will be able to stand their ground!

  2. Andrea says:

    Good for them! I’d be really pissed if my vet gave out my info to any agency. I just hope no ill comes to the vets for standing up.

  3. trucorgi says:
    Houston fought this and won.

  4. trucorgi says:

    Mikken and Andrea- Check your city/county on this site they may already be doing just that.

  5. sandi says:

    Most States the Veternarians only send notice that an animal has been vaccinated for rabies. No big Deal, this is a Public Health Issue.

    How would you handle if your child, relative or yourself or your animal was bitten and you had no proof of a rabies up to date from the offending animal?? Would you like to undergo the rabies series? This is only for Rabies. Rabies shots up to date are mandated for a yearly dog license.

  6. Stefani says:

    This is going to be one of those rare cases in which I actually take up for vets.

    It is RIDICULOUS that they are facing losing their licenses over this. The medical record is supposed to be only released with client permission or at client request. Yes, owners must comply with the law to license their animals, but the state needs to do it’s job, not create administrative paperwork for vets (that violates privacy rights) just to increase state collections. On top of everything else, this will cost the vets money, for what? To violate their clients privacy rights?

    WHAT REALLY GETS ME IS THIS — the states and the regulatory boards HAVE IT ALL BACKWARDS when it comes to what kinds of things vets should lose their licenses over, or even be fined for.

    Every day, all over this country, lazy/sloppy/abusive vets kill and injure patients, but what happenss to them?


    Meanwhile, these guys are standing up and trying to keep client records private, and they are in fear for their licenses?

    It really upsets me. If I were a GOOD vet, a CONSCIENTIOUS vet, I’d be mad as hell.

    On my website, I have disciplinary records for several years for Texas and Maryland. In Texas, for example, if a vet misses taking his required Continuing Education hours, he gets fined $250-$500, EVEN IF he has a REALLY good excuse — for example, a HURRICANE came in on the day of class and everything was cancelled. For real, many vets couldn’t go to class cause of a hurricane last year — no slack from the vet board, they got fined. One guy broke his leg, some of them have REALLY good reasons. Doesn’t matter, they get fined anyway.

    Meanwhile, you see these clearly seedy characters, whose actions seem to have either caused or contributed to the death or injury of a patient, and what happens to them?

    MAYBE an “informal” reprimand, or a “formal reprimand,” but no fines most of the time! Basically, NOTHING!

    RIDICULOUS!!! The states let the bad vets literally get away with murder, while they nickel and dime the good vets to death. If I were a good vet, I would be LIVID over this.

    The Toonces Project
    “Is Your Pet Safe at the Vet?”

  7. trucorgi says:

    Sandi-There is a confidentiality issue here. The laws were set up to protect public health, but there is potential for this to be used against pet owners when it is contracted out. Insurance companies have an interest in knowing what breeds are owned so they can cancel/raise premiums. It is my understanding the information being shared goes beyond public health interest because number of pets, breeds and reproductive status are being reported as well. The contractor collecting the data has no obligation to keep this information confidential, even though they now say they will, and has ties to animal rights groups. This “partnership” was removed from the website and a confidentiality notice was put up after the public questioned this practice, due in part to this being widely circulated bringing attention to the confidentiality issue. http://bluedogstate.blogspot.c.....s-aim.html

  8. Mikken says:


    As a matter of fact, I was badly bitten recently by a stray cat with an unknown history (probably never vaccinated at all, definitely living wild for some time). Four VERY deep punctures in my arm. It was impressive, even to me.

    Did I report it? No. Did I go to the hospital? No. Did I wash it out with soap and water and contact my homeopath? Yes I did. I followed instructions on which remedies to use and when. Healed up beautifully in no time at all.

    Rabies is not something that worries me. The use of my private information by profit-seeking “authorities” does concern me, though.

    Rabies shots are NOT mandated for licenses everywhere, btw.

  9. Dennis says:

    The other issue here unmentioned is the difference between a governmental agency and a private company or in this case most likely a not-for-profit organization. It sounds like some rocket scientist locally has outsourced the rabies tracking to a non-governmental agency and then presumes that that agency has the right to have access to private information. That sounds like someone did this without consulting decent attorneys.

    I don’t think the city can delegate their tracking responsibility like this and presume to win a suit over privacy. PAWS has separate issues with their handling it would seem. The vets could sue them separately for many civil reasons. PAWS could find itself liable for damages. And the city could find itself seeking a new means to track rabies vaccinations. And of course vaccinating for rabies and tracking is a good idea… But this mechanism is a good idea.

  10. KAEfamily says:

    “Rabies shots are NOT mandated for licenses everywhere, btw.”
    NOT TRUE! I don’t know about other locales in CA but here in Monrovia it IS! And it’s not $10. It’s $25 per pet. Like they say even air is expensive in CA.

    If the vets surrendered to the demand of PAW then they would be liable for their clients’ wrath for breach of confidentiality.

  11. Catlady says:

    Mikken -
    Hope you remain well. Rabies does not show up right away. Better safe than sorry when bitten by a stray animal by going to a doctor for treatment. If you had reported it, the cat may have been caught and tested. I know that is not a good outcome for the cat, but when an animal bites like that without provocation, rabies has to be a concern. If the cat had an owner, knowing its vaccination history would save the cat and save you the worry about whether you might later develop rabies.

  12. Bichon Mom says:

    Maybe Drs. Fortune and Townsend should move to Missouri. Not sure what it would take for a vet to actually lose their veterinary license there … :-(

    “A 66-year-old veterinarian with a murder conspiracy conviction now faces an animal abuse charge in southeast Missouri. Forty-five dogs, a cat and 2 cockatiels were seized last week from Jonathan Wilson’s home in Kennett.

    Dunklin County court records said he failed to provide adequate and sanitary drinking water, food and shelter, which were contaminated with feces and urine. Garbage bags full of dead, decomposing dogs were left on his property.

    Calls to his home were not answered.

    Wilson was sentenced in 1984 to five years in prison out of Dunklin County for conspiring to hire a hit man to kill a woman who had sued him for paternity.

    His vet license was reinstated after he served a little over a year in prison.”

  13. Louie W. says:

    If you don’t like government meddling, there’s a solution.

    VOTE “NO”.

    For every tax initiative, bond issue, etc, . . . whatever takes money out of your pocket and gives it to the government.

    Don’t give the government money, and you’ll have less bad government.

  14. Lynne says:

    We live in a nation that increasingly turns our private information over to corporate and other non-governmental entities. You really have no right to privacy anymore, especially not where the government is concerned.

    Sounds like the city commissioners are looking for someone else to do part of their job for them. Elected officials on all levels increasingly looks to private interests to take care of the chores that used to be the responsibility of government. Take a look around: try to find some aspect of government that hasn’t been outsourced. Private schools, private security, private (for profit) prisons—even roads and highways now owned and operated by foreign interests.

    We don’t have a democracy. We have an auction.

  15. G in INdiana says:

    >rant on
    Louie, you won’t have schools, fire protection, police protection, roads, snow removal. or even a department to make sure you pet and human food is pure. That is already the problem with most of the regulatory departments in this country. The current administration is trying to follow Grover Noquist’s idiotic suggestion to shrink government so it can be drowned in a bath tub. It’s very easy, shrink the departments so they can’t do their job, put in industry hacks to make sure they can’t do anything, and then make sure enough stuff that should be done is not. People get mad and upset and are willing to PRIVATIZE it. Once that happens, those cronies of the government hacks get unbid upon contracts and rape our treasury. See how that has worked, especially in the last seven years?
    >rant off

    Now back to the real topic at hand…
    A smarter move would be to un-elect the board who gave (was bribed to give or had some connection to) PAWS that contract to invade personal records.

    As a person who was bitten by a feral cat, whom we caught and turned in for testing, rabies is not something to screw around with. It can take up to a YEAR for symptoms to be noticed and by then you might as well write your will fast because you are toast.

  16. Louie W. says:


    Here, we have one of the highest tax rates in the country, and we have all those things you mentioned. They don’t work.

    Some of us have tried for years to “fight City Hall”. That doesn’t work, either.

    Bad government is a cancer that feeds on money.

  17. Mikken says:

    See? It’s that kind of fear that drives people. Rabies is the big, bad monster lurking in the closet out to get you. Any animal “not up to date” on shots is a potential killer.

    Fear like this allows people to turn control of their lives over to “the authorities”. But what if “the authorities” don’t have our (or our animals’) best interests at heart? What if they are driven by profit and the need for more control?

    KAEfamily, just because rabies is mandatory where you are, doesn’t mean that it’s mandatory where I am.

    G in Indiana, thanks for the advice about writing my will - yeah, I’m getting right on that one.

    Catlady, thank you for your concern, but I am fine, honest. I observed the cat before the bite long enough to know that while he had “issues”, he didn’t have rabies. The cat ended up going back to the nice old couple who found him and then on to a loving home (with no other cats - he had some serious cat aggression as well). That cat was an amazing sweetheart under the right conditions and a total psycho under the wrong ones.

    I still wouldn’t want my vet turning over my records to a private company with questionable motives.

  18. Stefani says:

    I think people are missing the point:

    In this case the state is not doing anything to ENSURE that pets are being vaccinated against rabies. They are only trying to make sure they collect the $10 license fee for each pet that HAS BEEN VACCINATED for rabies.

    This is not going to make you safer from rabies. All these animals have been vaccinated. It is just going to make your vet spend time and money turning your name and pet vaccination info over to the state, so they can come after you if you haven’t paid your licese fee.

    Now, I am not suggesting you shouldn’t pay your license fee. But I am suggesting that the state should NOT be making your vets do their jobs for them, by forcing them to release private veterinary records.

    Let the state pay for a door-to-door census of pets, and use that to collect fees. Leave our vet records alone.


  19. sandi says:

    The person who was bit, was fortunate, as there is dumb rabies it can lie dormant in one’s body for up to a year.

    In many areas, the monies generated from licensing help defray the costs of running a shelter, vet care, emergency care, spay neuter, overhead.

    As a nurse, and a shelter volunteer for eons, I see the bite reports, I see the animals that did not have rabies shots, ones that got away and one had to undergo the series. Recently in my town, a non vaccinated dog bit a child, dog is owned by the parents, the dog also had wounds of unknown origin. Dog was kept under obsevation for two weeks, did not show signs , then, in the same week another dog that did attack a family member go away, three children are now undergoing the series.

    Please get over it.

    Also, cats are one of the main sources of carrying rabies, I see the Massachusetts stats, many are cats, cats that test postive are high due to exposure with wild life.

    You are lucky, but, you know, I would never just wash a wound, I would have the rabies series, well, in my case a booster. You are playing with fire, I hope it never, burns you.

  20. Mikken says:

    No, Stefani’s right. She wrote -

    “In this case the state is not doing anything to ENSURE that pets are being vaccinated against rabies. They are only trying to make sure they collect the $10 license fee for each pet that HAS BEEN VACCINATED for rabies.

    This is not going to make you safer from rabies. All these animals have been vaccinated. It is just going to make your vet spend time and money turning your name and pet vaccination info over to the state, so they can come after you if you haven’t paid your licese fee. ”

    Sounds a bit like privatized law enforcement?

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