Char-Meck Animal Control Seizes Family Dog Over Rabies Vaccine Issue

Captain, as pictured on the GoFundMe website.

Captain, as pictured on the GoFundMe website.

On April 24, a 6 year old plott hound called Captain got into a tangle with a raccoon in the woods at his NC home.  The raccoon tested positive for rabies.  Captain’s owner took him to the vet for a booster shot on his rabies, even though he was already current.  One month later, Captain exchanged pleasantries with a second raccoon who also tested positive for rabies.  Captain’s owner called the vet for advice and was reportedly told that since the dog had just been boostered one month earlier, there was no need for another vaccine.

Unfortunately, the vet’s recommendation put Captain at odds with the Mecklenburg Co health department because NC law does not specifically mention how to handle a vaccinated dog post exposure who was just boostered one month prior:

State law requires that every single time a pet comes into contact with a rabid animal you must take it to the vet for a booster shot within five days of the incident. Or your pet will be taken from you.

Yesterday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg ACC seized Captain and advised the owner he has 3 days to choose whether to have Captain killed or to pay for an expensive 6 month quarantine.  The owner does not have the money to pay for the quarantine but does not want his beloved pet killed.  He started a GoFundMe page to try to raise money for the quarantine bill.

I tried searching online for rabies vaccination information that would be relevant to this case but didn’t find anything.  Post exposure booster of rabies vaccine does seem to be generally recommended for dogs but I could not find a recommendation regarding two exposures in one month’s time.  My layman’s understanding of how vaccines work is that even if Captain had received an additional booster after the encounter with the second raccoon, it would not have boosted his immunity.

An interview with rabies researcher Dr. Ronald Schultz does not specifically address the question of revaccinating dogs post exposure but does offer this general bit of information which may be relevant:

There is absolutely no scientific reason for anyone to vaccinate an animal more often than every 3 years with products that are licensed by the USDA to be given at 3 year intervals.

Re-vaccinating that animal more frequently will not enhance […] protection against rabies.

It seems to me that Captain’s vet’s opinion, on which the owner relied, should be taken into consideration by the local health department in Captain’s case.  The strict interpretation of the law that the health department appears to be utilizing would dictate that a dog who received a rabies vaccine then got taken home and came into contact with a rabid animal would have to turn around and be taken back to the clinic for another rabies vaccine in order to avoid being seized.  I am not sure this interpretation is based in science or doing anything to protect public health.  No pet, including Captain, should have to die because of a poorly written and/or poorly interpreted rabies law.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

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19 Comments

  1. They need legal help immediately & also should contact NC State vet school (Public Health dep’t.) & CDC to get a handle on this. Haven’t dealt w. that animal control for awhile but several yrs. ago they were OK. CDC is conservative but clear-thinking & probably is needed for authoritative analysis. Local decision-makers will probably be responsive to expert opinion.

    Reply
  2. 6 months? most are 10 days.. at home.. this is why people do the 3 s’s shoot shovel and shut up.. dangerous but probably pretty common due to laws like this

    Reply
    • The owner probably believed he was acting as a responsible citizen by reporting the dead raccoons and having the county take them for testing. But the person taking the report and the person picking up the remains should both have informed the owner that he had to get that rabies vax again, even if his vet said it was unnecessary, or else the county would take his dog.

      Reply
    • The standard 10-day quarantine rule is for an animal that bites — because of the time frame of rabies, if the animal is still alive 10 days afterwards, he did not have rabies when he bit. The 6-mo. requirement is a different matter — it pertains to an animal which might have been affected by contact with a rabid animal. The incubation period for rabies is deemed to be up to 6 mo. — therefore they quarantine that long.

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      • To top it off, they’ve recently determined that the 6month requirement is BS for at least some mammals, namely humans. There have been multiple cases in the last couple years of people who had contact with a possibly rabid animal, did not get the shots (or have the animal tested) and then came down with rabies a year or more later. In one case it was multiple years. With no other exposure that could be found.

  3. He should NOT have to vaccinate again. He has already been boostered and it has been proven they do not need another booster. AC is WRONG and this dog should be returned to the owner for in home 10 DAY quarantine

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  4. NEVER,EVER, give up your dog to authorities unless they have a warrant! I wonder how the authorities even found out about the incident? The family needs to contact vet schools and find an expert on rabies

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  5. Well, we stupidity is pretty much par for the course at Char-Mack, isn’t it?

    This whole thing is just dumb as dumb can be – the dog is vaccinated. The dog is boostered. What the hell more could they possibly want? Oh, right, they want to kill the dog.

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  6. Wait – I just read the GoFundMe page and it says that the dog “came home carrying the dead raccoon” – was the raccoon already dead and the dog found it? Because the CDC says – “Other contact by itself, such as petting a rabid animal and contact with blood, urine, or feces of a rabid animal, does not constitute an exposure and is not an indication for postexposure vaccination.”

    If the raccoon was dead when the dog found it, I doubt that this can be classified as an “exposure” to begin with. The dog would have to be bitten, exposed to saliva or brain/spinal tissue for it to be an exposure. Unless this dog was chewing on the raccoon’s head, I’d argue against the idea that it was exposed.

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    • And the rabies virus dies in the air. The question is: how does this get presented to the powers-that-be in an effective way?

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  7. They just updated their gofundme. They are now agreeing to a ten day quarantine and yet another booster.

    I think there was a higher up with enough of a sense of self preservation to realize this would NOT end well if they followed through with their threat.

    Reply
  8. Clarice

     /  June 4, 2015

    Update: Captain will be allowed to return home after a 10 day quarantine and then will be under a home quarantine for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. Before he is released, he will be given one more rabies booster.

    http://www.wcnc.com/story/news/local/2015/06/03/dog-exposed-to-rabies-gets-to-return-home-much-sooner/28444893/

    Reply
    • Good news for Captain. (And hey, while we’re at it, why don’t we just give him 10 boosters before he leaves to cover the next 10 raccoons he sniffs out?) But what about the other dogs who have been/will be needlessly killed under this policy who don’t get the benefit of media attention? The county needs to realize that Captain’s owner, and I suspect every local dog owner who has read about this case, will never in future call the health department or AC to report dead animals for rabies testing. Which makes the county LESS SAFE – the opposite of what the health department and AC are supposed to be doing. Change based in science, not hysteria, is needed. It will likely be left up to citizens to push for this change since they seem to be the only ones who get things accomplished in general.

      Reply
      • vida

         /  June 4, 2015

        ” The county needs to realize that Captain’s owner, and I suspect every local dog owner who has read about this case, will never in future call the health department or AC to report dead animals for rabies testing. ”
        I sometimes think that is the point, if the authorities make it painful enough than people will stop bothering them and the card games and fb postings can go on eight hours a day.
        I certainly know many people at this point who will do just about anything rather than call ac or the police.

  9. This goes to show the authorities no NOTHING about what they are doing… 6 months is way to much and 10 days isn’t enough… Rabies has a 14 day incubation period… The dog is likely covered with the vaccine and booster, they make no sense with their quarantine periods…

    Reply
  10. EmilyS

     /  June 5, 2015

    a REALLY happy ending would be if the owner kept Captain at home where he can’t tangle with raccoons, rabid or otherwise …….

    Reply
    • The linked article gives a clear indication Captain WAS at home:

      Back on April 24th, Captain went into the woods at Jenkins’ home and fought with a rabid raccoon.

      Reply
    • Never mind the number of raccoons who wander thru urban back yards on a regular basis……

      Reply

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