Rabies outbreak! Call the… Board of Regents?

The Maryland Board of Agriculture, also known as the University of Maryland Board of Regents, circa 1949. (click for larger version)
The Maryland State Board of Agriculture, also known as the University of Maryland Board of Regents, circa 1949. (click for larger version)

According to the Washington Post, 12 children in the Silver Spring and Takoma Park areas were bitten by or exposed to rabid dogs in October and November of 1949.  To stem the problem, Montgomery and Prince George’s County officials turned to Dr. A.L. Brueckner, Director of the Maryland Livestock Sanitary Service. Brueckner recommended a quarantine of all dogs in the area, which required the approval of his bosses on the Maryland State Board of Agriculture. As it happens, the members of that board were the very same folks who comprised the University of Maryland Board of Regents.

The State Board of Agriculture began in 1908, when the College Park campus was still known as the Maryland Agricultural College.  Given the expertise of the college’s Board of Trustees, the General Assembly decided that they should also serve as the Board of Agriculture.  This arrangement continued after MAC’s merger with the University of Maryland in 1920, all the way up until the formation of the State Department of Agriculture in 1972.

Quarantine order signed by Harry Clifton Byrd and A.L. Bueckner in response to a rabies outbreak. (click for larger version)
Quarantine order signed by Harry Clifton Byrd and A.L. Brueckner in response to a rabies outbreak. (click for larger version)

When the rabies outbreak occurred in 1949, the Board of Regents, consisting of politicians, lawyers, businessmen, and other prominent citizens, and the University of Maryland already had a much broader focus than agriculture. Nonetheless, the Regents still took their job seriously.  University president Harry Clifton Byrd reached out to all of the Board members by telegram to get their consent before he and Dr. Brueckner issued the quarantine order. The response telegrams arrived over the next few days, and the quarantine was put in force.

As for the dogs, the county government undertook a mass vaccination campaign, and the quarantine appears to have been allowed to expire in March 1950.

Given the wide range of issues with which today’s Board of Regents needs to deal, it’s probably for the best that things like approving rabies quarantines are left to the State Department of Agriculture.

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