To the editor:
In his May 8 letter, Steve Willson, DVM, says the May 5 Journal-World article about a concert fundraiser for Operation Wildlife (OWL) “encourages the creation of serious public health problems.” He then gives a brief tutorial on rabies and one line about the dangers of approaching great blue herons. Eh?
The article was simply about a fundraiser (but it even had a caution about herons!). And the quickest search would have shown Willson that a major portion of OWL’s mission is educating the public about wild animals, deterring people from approaching and keeping them, and providing rescue and safe techniques when intervention is needed.
Most of the wild birds, mammals and reptiles in OWL’s care have posed little or no threat to the public. And when there is a threat, OWL is a great place to call because they are specifically trained (and permitted by Kansas and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) to handle such things. OWL safety procedures for staff and volunteers include a rabies pre-exposure vaccine series and follow-up testing. And they know more about the current status of rabies in wild populations than anybody other than a few state biologists (see the Opwildlife comment under the letter).
A costly and labor-intensive local nonprofit that we rely on deserves all of the financial, in-kind and moral support we can muster. Anyone who concludes that a wildlife rehab program increases the risk of rabies is just ill informed and not using logic. And when someone with credentials does that, it’s highly irresponsible.