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.)

ACO Runs Out of Cat Catching Ideas After 60 Seconds, Calls In Police to Shoot Cat

Clark, as pictured on the Press-Herald website.

Clark, as pictured on the Portland Press Herald website.

On August 20, Some Guy in Gorham, ME called police to report that a limping cat had scratched or bitten his child and that he suspected the cat had rabies. The Gorham police sent an ACO to the scene at 7pm. The ACO was unable to immediately trap the animal and so called for a police officer to come shoot the limping cat with a 16 gauge shotgun. Which is the next obvious step after the limping cat, having been diagnosed as possibly rabid by Some Guy, refused to walk immediately into a trap. There are zero steps in between Immediately Secure Cat in Trap and Blast Cat with 16 Gauge Shotgun.

After being shot, the cat ran off into the woods for 4 days. He finally emerged in the yard of a woman who has been feeding him on her back deck for years. He was trapped and taken to an area shelter. He is being monitored by a vet as his front leg bones are shattered from the shotgun pellets and may require surgery to repair. It’s painful to even imagine the suffering this cat endured for 4 days after being shot.

Lt. Chris Sanborn of the Gorham PD said the department will investigate itself in the matter, the officer who shot the cat is still on duty, and that officer is not being named. Also, he doesn’t know what to do if a cat diagnosed by Some Guy as possibly rabid doesn’t immediately limp into a trap:

Sanborn said his department follows state protocol for dealing with animals that police suspect may be rabid, including trapping the animal so it can be quarantined while veterinarians determine if it is infected. Sanborn said he did not know what the protocol is for situations where the animal cannot be caught.

If you don’t know, start shooting. I think that’s what it says on the sides of police cars.

The cat, now named Clark, is having his vet bills paid by the police department. He is not rabid but is reportedly very friendly and loving. The lady who has been feeding him on her property is worried the shelter will kill him.

An ACO obviously ill equipped for the job.  A police officer ready, willing and able to fulfill cat shooting requests upon demand.  A supervisor prepared to provide cover for these heinous actions.  A shelter where citizens fear their pets will be killed.  Yay public servants.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

GA Pound Oops-Kills Owned Dog Because Math

The Whitfield Co pound in GA has some “animal facts” on its webpage that the county likes so much, it printed them twice. They read, in part:

Dogs and cats out number humans in this country at a ratio of about 6 to 1. […]

Pet overpopulation is a serious and growing problem in the United States. It is estimated that between 10 to 20 million companion animals are unwanted and put to death every year.

The U.S. Census Bureau says there are approximately 318,649,000 people in the US. If dogs and cats outnumbered humans 6 to 1 in this country, that would indicate a dog and cat population of roughly 2 billion. Which would make it a tad difficult to get to work, what with all the freeways piled high with kittens, let alone the mountains of puppies covering the sidewalks.

The ASPCA says there are an estimated 144 – 176 million owned dogs and cats in the U.S. and that each year, shelters kill approximately 2.7 million pets.

I guess no one at the Whitfield Co pound majored in math. Or Google.  Or reality.

Wiz and family member, as pictured on the Dalton Daily citizen website.

Wiz and family member, as pictured on the Dalton Daily Citizen website.

Last month, a dog named Wiz bit a kid in Whitfield Co. Wiz was not current on his rabies vaccination so he was impounded by the county for a standard 10 day rabies quarantine.  After the holding period expired, the owner called the pound to make arrangements to bring Wiz back home.  But Whitfield Co had already killed Wiz because the person doing the killing couldn’t count to 10.  Because math is hard:

[County administrator Mark] Gibson said the employee claimed to have made a mathematical mistake in adding up the number of days since the dog had been brought in. So he euthanized the wrong dog.

Oops.  All two of the Whitfield Co pound employees have been suspended by the board of commissioners as a result of the killing – the director for 5 days and the guy who killed Wiz for 2 days.  And the county has instituted several changes at the pound to prevent a similar type of oops-killing from happening in future.  Specifically:

  1. Owners will be called at the end of the quarantine period to let them know their pet will be killed if not reclaimed.
  2. Animals being held on rabies quarantine will be separated from the general population and have their cages marked with the date the quarantine expires.
  3. The one guy who attempts to count to 10 to determine when the holding period ends needs to turn in his homework to the other guy for a double check.  Hopefully between the two of them, they might get it right.

The fact that they weren’t calling owners before killing their quarantined pets or separating rabies holds from other animals is shocking. The math thing is just frightening.

The director and the other employee both said they feel their punishment for killing Wiz is fair. The chairman of the board of commissioners also thinks it’s fair. As does commissioner Harold Brooker, third cousin to the pound director. No word from Wiz’s family on how fair they feel the punishment is but it’s swell to know the good ol’ boys are all satisfied.

(Thanks Arlene for the link.)

What Happened to the Beagles in the 5 Year Group in the Rabies Challenge Fund?

Primer, snipped from the Rabies Challenge Fund website:

The Rabies Challenge Fund Charitable Trust will determine the duration of immunity conveyed by rabies vaccines. The goal is to extend the required interval for rabies boosters to 5 and then to 7 years.
[…]
The research began in November 2007 under the direction of Dr. Ronald Schultz and The University of Wisconsin Foundation and is now in year seven.

And the most recent news on the site, dated July 2014:

The Rabies Challenge Fund has just received the commitment from a USDA-approved facility to perform the first of the challenge phases of our 5 and 7-year studies. […]

Fees for this first challenge, slated to begin later this year, will involve 15 of the study dogs and will cost $100,000. If successful, two subsequent challenges of 15 dogs each will be conducted in order to meet the USDA rabies vaccine licensing requirements. These results, which will have been obtained using the same federal standard upon which all currently licensed rabies vaccines and rabies laws and regulations are based, should establish the scientific foundation upon which the legally required rabies booster intervals for dogs can be extended to 5 or 7 years.

My question is: What has happened to the dogs in the 5 year group, whose 5 years would seem to have expired in 2012? The study uses approximately 70 beagles, researchers’ breed of choice for vivisection. And the USDA requires that the dogs be killed at the conclusion of the study.

In 2008, the study was targeted by PETA. I have no idea why PETA would take issue with the planned killing of dogs, unless it was that the dogs weren’t being killed fast enough to satiate PETA’s blood lust. At any rate Dr. Jean Dodds, one of the researchers, responded to PETA and her response was widely circulated online. Part of her response addressed the USDA requirement that the dogs be killed and the researchers’ intention to convince the USDA to change that requirement:

Dr. Ron Schultz has undertaken informal dialog with USDA senior officials , in his capacity as advisor to the vaccine industry and regulatory body. He has decades of experience in the field and attends meetings with these folks regularly. At this point, we have not made progress in changing their views, BUT, he and I together are planning to present a more formal proposal to them. We have 4 + years to accomplish what we view as an important need to change the regulations as currently written for endpoint challenge testing — before anything involving challenge of these healthy dogs (vaccinates and controls) with rabies virus has to take place according to the current regulatory protocol.
[…]
We have the interim years to dialog with the federal authorities, based upon Dr. Schultz’s expertise, and hope to amend the CFR regulatory requirements for the end phase of their protocol.

Dr. Dodds also explained that dogs will be killed promptly and not allowed to suffer through the entire disease process once infected with rabies:

Even if we’re forced by the USDA to follow the current challenge protocol at the end of the 5 and 7 year studies, there will be no excruciating deaths among the control dogs, because at the very first evidence of malaise and illness they will be sacrificed.

After searching the RCF website and trying to find updates via Google but coming up empty, I sent out a couple of inquiries.

Sent to the Rabies Challenge Fund:

I saw the website announcement last month that a USDA approved facility had been secured in which to expose the dogs to rabies. Have the dogs in the 5 year study been waiting all this time for you to secure a facility? If not, what was their fate?
I remember several years ago the doctors involved in the study were hopeful they’d be able to convince the USDA that titers were acceptable so that no dogs would be killed in order to satisfy USDA requirements at the end of the study. Were those efforts successful? I never heard any updates.

Response: none.

Sent to Maddie’s Fund, a no kill organization which is not funding the RCF but is widely affiliated with Dr. Ron Schultz, lead researcher on the study:

Do you know if Maddie’s has issued a position statement on [the RCF] study, specifically regarding the planned killing of the dogs involved in the research? Or if Maddie’s has been encouraging Dr. Schultz to seek alternatives to killing the dogs in the rabies study?

Response, from Lynne Fridley at Maddie’s Fund:

Maddie’s Fund would encourage all researchers to find alternatives to killing animals for their studies, but we were not aware of this study until you contacted us and thus have not discussed it nor taken a position on it.

Maddie’s Fund never heard of the RCF study. Although they know about it now so perhaps they will take some action. I can’t tell based upon the brief response.

RCF isn’t answering questions apparently.

So I’m throwing this out there: Does anyone know what has happened to the beagles in the 5 year study group? Have the researchers made any progress in convincing the USDA to accept results from the study which do not require the killing of the dogs?

Please note that this is not a forum to discuss the potential benefits of the RCF study or engage in “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” arguments in an attempt to justify killing dogs.  I am asking what has happened to the 5 year group of beagles involved in the RCF study.  I understand that possibly one or more of you might have a dog who will potentially benefit from a change in the law regarding the duration of immunity of rabies vaccines.  Your dog has you to advocate for him, as well you should, just not on this post.  The beagles forced to participate in the RCF study never got to be anyone’s dogs and have no owners advocating for them.

I don’t like secrecy and I like dog killing even less.  If you can’t own it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.  I want to find out the truth.

WV Animal Control Officer Violates Law in Dog Killing, Will Keep Job

A Fayette County dog bit a child on March 11, 2014 and stitches were required as a result of the injury. Fayette Co ACO Russell Parker seized the dog and was advised by the owner that the dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The owner stated the dog had attacked another person in past and agreed to have the dog euthanized.

The Fayette Co animal control director is the only person licensed to euthanize animals for the county and she works at a veterinary clinic. When ACO Russell was advised by the county health department on March 12 that the dog’s head needed to be sent to a lab for rabies testing ASAP, the individual licensed to perform euthanasia was contacted. She stated she would come to the county facility after her shift ended at the clinic that afternoon to perform the euthanasia. The dog’s owner had already paid the vet clinic for the euthanasia.

ACO Russell decided the euthanasia could not be delayed and opted to shoot the dog to death with a small caliber rifle. He did not inform the animal control director of his intentions.  Nor did he exercise the most obvious option of immediately transporting the dog to the vet clinic for the euthanasia. After killing the dog, he reportedly used some sort of tool to remove the head and sent it to a lab for testing.

West Virginia code allows for the shooting of dogs under limited circumstances and there are specific protocols which must be followed:

(c) In an emergency or in a situation in which a dog cannot be humanely destroyed in an expeditious manner, a dog may be destroyed by shooting if:

(1) The shooting is performed by someone trained in the use of firearms with a weapon and ammunition of suitable caliber and other characteristics designed to produce instantaneous death by a single shot; and

(2) Maximum precaution is taken to minimize the dog’s suffering and to protect other persons and animals.

The animal control director filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office regarding the killing. The sheriff’s investigator determined that ACO Parker was in violation of the law as he did not use a firearm capable of killing the dog with one shot. In fact, ACO Parker shot the dog three times before he finally died, causing needless pain and suffering.

Fayette Co sheriff Steve Kessler concluded that despite the violation of the law which resulted in the dog’s agonizing death, there were no grounds to fire ACO Parker. His reasoning:

  • ACO Parker was trying to to get the dog’s head to the lab as quickly as possible for the sake of the bitten child and thought this was the only way to do it.
  • Using a weapon of insufficient caliber to kill the pet with a single shot as required by law is exactly the same as when a technician tries to euthanize a pet by injection, misses the vein and must re-insert the needle.
  • Serving as an ACO is a “dirty, nasty” job which pays slightly more than minimum wage.

As to the first point, it does not seem credible to me that ACO Parker thought shooting the dog to death was the only way to get the head submitted for testing right away. He didn’t even explore the alternatives such as driving the dog to the clinic himself or requesting the services of another clinic. Regarding the second point, a missed venipuncture with a small needle is in no way, shape or form the equivalent of a small caliber rifle shot. One does not cause the same pain and suffering as the other, as posited by Sheriff Kessler in his press release.  And lastly, whether or not the sheriff thinks sheltering animals is a “dirty, nasty” job is irrelevant, as is the pay.  The sheriff is sworn to uphold the law which in this case, was violated.

Local animal advocates had been calling for ACO Parker’s termination.  Sheriff Kessler stated that ACO Parker has been disciplined but refused to elaborate.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

Odessa’s Multi-Tiered Failure Results in Dog’s Death

The police department in Odessa, Texas runs the pound.  Thousands of animals are impounded and killed each year, with the police department claiming most of them are “unadoptable”.   One dog impounded on February 15 for quarantine was definitely not “unadoptable” – he had a family who loved him and wanted him back.  Instead, he is now dead:

OPD says on Saturday, the dog pushed up a water bowl, escaped from the opening and out of exterior doors, which were open for ventilation.

The dog was found dead in the street later that day.

When municipalities insist that dogs be quarantined at the pound instead of at home, it’s purportedly being done in order to provide the highest level of safety to the public.  That is, Odessa apparently doesn’t trust owners to quarantine their own dogs at home following a bite report and requires dogs be sent to the pet killing facility for the duration of the quarantine.

Pro tip:  If your quarantine cages are such that all a dog has to do is push aside a bowl in order to escape not only the cage but the entire building, you aren’t protecting the public very well.  I think a reasonable argument could be made that in fact you aren’t doing your jobs at all.  But with a cited kill rate of 85% at Odessa’s so-called shelter, I guess everybody already knows that.

The Odessa police department will investigate itself in the case.

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

Cat Drools, NC Vet Gets Frothy

Matthews, NCFamily:  Hi.  Our 2 year old cat has never been been outdoors or even been around another animal.  He seems to be drooling.

Vet:  OK, he probably just got into something he shouldn’t have.  Here’s some medicine.

Family:  Coolio.  By the way, we had him vaccinated when he was a kitten.  Are we supposed to get him a booster shot at some point?

Vet:  RABIES!  Your cat is rabid!  He must die!

Family:  Dude.  You just said –

Vet: This is a hair-on-fire emergency. I’m calling the Health Department.

County Health Department (on phone to Vet):  Too many people have potentially been exposed to rabies from this cat.  Cat must die!

Family:  No see, our cat’s never been outside or been around other animals, like we said.  There’s no risk of rabies here.

Vet:  Rabies Will Robinson!

So the vet killed the family’s pet, cut off his head and sent it to the state lab for rabies testing.  The results were negative.

Drooling is a very common reaction in cats and stems from a wide variety of possible causes.  Some cats drool when they are being pet, for example.  But maybe they are all rabid too.  And the rabies vaccine this cat had received may still have been offering protection anyway – not that he needed it, since he was strictly indoors-only.  But yeah, rabies.  I mean:  RABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And if all the violent hysteria associated with a drooling cat isn’t enough for you, WCNC in Charlotte ends their story with this tidbit:

NBC Charlotte checked with the county and looked over the law. Officials say quarantine was not an option because too many people were potentially exposed to rabies, and rabies is 100-percent fatal.

Why is the number of people potentially exposed even an issue?  The cat didn’t walk across the laps of a stadium full of people between home and the vet’s office, did he?  If the size of this family was smaller, would the cat still be alive today?  And since “rabies is 100% fatal”, which gives the impression that extreme measures must be taken even in highly questionable cases, I guess somebody should let the CDC know they may as well chuck their post-exposure vaccination protocols since everyone is going to die.  No exceptions.  Least of all for cats who drool and their families who love them.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

ND Shelter’s Failure to Follow Protocols Results in Dozens of Preventable Dog Deaths

In March 2010, two stray dogs were picked up in rural MN and taken to the nearest shelter in Grand Forks, ND.  At the shelter, they were kept together in isolation for 5 days, in accordance with shelter protocol, then moved to the adoption floor with the general shelter population.  A few days later, shelter staff deemed one of the two dogs unadoptable due to aggressive behavior and killed him.  The other dog went to a foster family:

Five days later, the dog was vomiting and had loss of balance. On March 27, the family returned the dog to the shelter, where it was examined by a veterinarian, who noted hyperesthesia, tremors, ataxia, and dilated pupils. Because the differential diagnosis included canine distemper and rabies, the dog was euthanized the same day, and the brain was sent to the state veterinary diagnostic laboratory for testing. Three days later, the laboratory reported that a fluorescent antibody test was positive for rabies virus.

My assumption, based on the article, is that the shelter protocol does not include vaccination.  I can only guess the reason for this is perhaps the oft cited “lack of funds”.  Apparently the shelter did have money in the budget for Fatal Plus to kill the dog deemed unadoptable.  At any rate, the shelter had a policy of permitting no contact between dogs.  This would obviously be essential at a shelter that does not vaccinate.  It’s not nearly as beneficial as vaccination, but preventing contact would at least reduce some risks.

The dog who had been killed for aggressive behavior was assumed to have carried the rabies virus as well after the buddy dog tested positive.  So the potential exposure pool included the family who found the dogs in MN, any staff, volunteers and visitors to the ND shelter during the time the two dogs were there, along with the foster family of the one dog and anyone who had visited them during the time they had the rabid dog.  Ultimately 21 people received rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP).

Unfortunately for shelter dogs, there is no PEP.  As such, they are completely reliant on shelter staff to vaccinate upon intake.  In the case of this shelter which apparently doesn’t vaccinate, the dogs rely upon the staff and volunteers to adhere to the “no contact” protocol.  “However, shelter employees could not verify that this policy was strictly followed” during the time the two rabid dogs were at the shelter.  Therefore, in the absence of vaccination and in consideration of the failure of shelter personnel to follow protocol, the following dogs were killed:

  • 25 dogs still living at the shelter at the time rabies was confirmed
  • 11 dogs who had been adopted out or redeemed by owners during the period the rabid dogs were at the shelter  (This was a choice made by the eleven owners.  Thirteen other owners elected to quarantine their dogs at home for six months.)

All 36 dogs were tested:

All euthanized dogs tested negative for rabies. No additional cases of rabid animals related to possible shelter exposure had been identified as of December 2010.

As for the people who had been exposed:

As of December, no contacts had developed rabies.

A note at the end of the report states, in part:

Several measures should be instituted in animal shelters and other public settings where humans are exposed to animals to decrease the risk for rabies virus transmission and to facilitate the epidemiologic investigation of identified cases. First, all domestic animals should be vaccinated against rabies, in accordance with guidelines. Second, animals without documentation of vaccination against rabies should be kept separate from the public, wildlife, and other animals to prevent transmission of the virus. In this case, 36 dogs had to be euthanized because employees and volunteers might not have consistently followed the shelter’s policy of preventing muzzle-to-muzzle contact between dogs.

Thank you Janeen for the link to this report.

Putnam Co Rabies Policy Causing Needless Pet Deaths in WV

Putnam Co in WV has a rabies policy which seems to differ significantly from the state laws regarding rabies quarantine and related protocols.  The primary difference for owned pets is that under the Putnam Co policy, any dog, cat or ferret who bites a person is required to be quarantined for 10 days “at the Putnam Co Animal Shelter or at an approved Veterinarian’s office at the owner’s expense”.  The confinement must begin “within the hour” and there are “no exceptions”.

Animal advocates and owners have complained that owned pets should be allowed to be quarantined at home, as indicated by state law.  The ability to quarantine at home can be essential to keeping a pet with the owner as some owners can not afford an unexpected expense of immediate quarantine boarding at a facility.  There are obviously other risks for seized pets in the shelter as we will see in a moment.  Putnam Co contends that WV law does not provide for home quarantine for bite cases.  This appears to me to be incorrect.

1.  The WV state form for reporting an animal bite indicates on page 4 that “Home” is one of the options for the location where an owned pet may be quarantined after a bite.

2.  Under “Strict Isolation” (page 6 of the pdf) in the state’s Rabies Surveillance, Management and Control Manual, it states:

A kennel in a veterinary hospital, animal control facility, commercial boarding establishment, or a pen at home (see Appendix A) that prevents direct contact between the animal and any human or other animal, but allows for observation, feeding, watering and sanitation. The local Sanitarian is responsible for approving the adequacy of the isolation unit.

3.  Appendix A (page 23 of the pdf) provides plans for constructing a pen suitable for quarantining an unvaccinated pet at home.

4.  Appendix G (page 36 of the pdf) offers “Home” as one of the places an animal may be confined.

5.  Appendix H (page 37 of the pdf) is a form instructing an owner about home quarantine of a pet.

Given these references, it seems clear to me that the state of WV code does indeed allow for owned pets who bite a person to be quarantined at home.

In the case of a bite by a stray dog, cat or ferret, the Putnam Co rabies policy calls for immediate killing of the animal with a possible exception:

However, if the animal has the appearance of an owned pet, the supervisor will be notified immediately for case review to determine if a short waiting period will be allowed for the possible claiming of the animal by its owner.

In the case of a bite by a stray dog, cat or ferret, the state’s Rabies Surveillance, Management and Control Manual states:

[…] the local health officer shall direct the county humane officer, dog warden or sheriff to confine the suspect animal for a period of 10 days for rabies observation.

This appears on page 9 of the pdf and does list cases where immediate euthanasia and testing may be preferable to the 10 day quarantine (for example in the case of a fatality).  The Putnam Co policy lists these same conditions.

Why does Putnam Co need this extremely stringent rabies policy?  You might be wondering if rabies in companion animals has been a problem in recent years there.  I wondered that myself.

In all of WV, cases of rabies in dogs and cats have been rare in the past decade (see page 4), with 2007 and 2009 each showing 4 cat cases and zero dogs (2008 shows 8 cats cases and zero dogs).  A note at the bottom of page 6 of this 2008 rabies report from the state lists Putnam as one of the counties where the raccoon strain of rabies has never been identified within its borders.  This state document lists all cases of positive rabies tests by county for 2000 through 2009.  Putnam Co appears on page 41 and, aside from 3 bats scattered over the years, Putnam Co doesn’t have a whole lot going on rabies-wise.  In fact, the number of dogs, cats and ferrets who have tested positive for rabies in Putnam Co in the past decade is zero.  Putnam comes up with another goose egg on this state rabies map for 2010 (the same ZERO shows up in the state’s USDA data).

So if the county rabies policy is not motivated by an actual need for heightened response to a rabies threat, what is behind it?  I don’t have any way of knowing but I was contacted by Barbara Koblinsky regarding the matter.  Ms. Koblinsky is a former Registered Sanitarian at the Putnam Co Health Department who spoke out against the rabies policy and tried to counsel owners that they were within their rights to quarantine their pets at home and not surrender them to the county.  She was wrongfully terminated by the county, and recently ordered by a judge to be reinstated with back pay and benefits.

Ms. Koblinsky provided me with copies of six Putnam Co “Euthanasia Request” forms for pets who had bitten people.  They are dated between 8-14-09 and 5-6-10 and name 4 cats and 2 dogs.  Four of the pets appear to have owners and there is no mention whatsoever of any quarantine period – home or otherwise.  One of the forms describes a 3 month old kitten.  It appears as if all 6 of these pets were seized by the county and immediately killed under the county’s rabies policy.

In addition, Ms. Koblinsky provided me with copies of seven “Quarantine Forms” (so we know the county does have them, at least).  A cat listed on the 2-25-10 form was killed at the shelter and his story made the local news earlier this year:

Terry Humphrey had to take his cat, Kitty Tom, to the shelter after the indoor cat got outside and then bit him. Humphrey’s finger swelled up and he went to the doctor to get it checked out. That’s when the Health Department caught wind of the incident and insisted the cat be quarantined.

While at the shelter, Kitty Tom was mixed up with a group of Ferrel [sic] cats and was later euthanized.

The shelter blamed a volunteer for the oops killing but obviously if the owner had been allowed to quarantine his own cat who had bitten him at home (as allowed by state law), this never would have happened.

Just a few weeks ago, the rabies policy was again in the local news after an owner spoke out at a county meeting over the county’s killing of his dog:

[Dog owner Dale] Stone said his 2-year-old border collie was taken to the shelter after it “nipped” a deputy assessor.

[…]

As Stone recalled his conversation with the animal control officer, he said he agreed to pay $10 a day for the quarantine at the shelter and offered documentation of the dog’s rabies vaccination.

But the papers he signed — which were explained “word for word,” [Chief Humane Officer John] Davis said — surrendered ownership of the dog to the shelter.

The shelter does not offer dogs that have bitten humans for adoption, he said.

Well, either it wasn’t explained “word for word” that the county would be immediately killing the dog – which is what happened – or somebody is lying.  I can’t think of any other reasonable explanation.

The remaining quarantine forms provided by Ms. Koblinsky all have handwritten notes on the side that say “Owner surrendered” with the same date as the quarantine request.  From the above quote about the shelter not offering bite case pets for adoption and based upon what happened to Mr. Stone’s dog, I assume all these pets were immediately killed as well.

The county is vowing to fight the reinstatement of Ms. Koblinsky to the health department.  She is vowing to continue speaking out against the county’s rabies policy which has caused the needless deaths of both owned and currently-between-homes pets.

Thank you to both Babrbara Koblinsky and Jo Staats for providing me with information about this story.