Friday, June 13, 2014

And Sometimes Law Enforcement Shouldn't Be The Expert.

I have written about rabies a lot! Every single story has been a horror story to help coerce everyone into getting their pets vaccinated. And, now here I am about to become a proponent for a pet many states away who is being placed in a 6 month quarantine because he was three months overdue on his rabies vaccine and was deemed an exposure risk because he was sprayed by a skunk.

The article as published in the Piedmont Newstation Channel 8 news;

KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — Michael and April McQueen’s 11-year-old dog Simon is now under quarantine for six months after being sprayed by a skunk last Thursday night.

“He didn’t come in contact with the skunk,” said April on Monday. “He never touched the skunk, the skunk never touched him, he wasn’t bitten, there was no yelp, and there was no scuffle.”

April says she was walking Simon when a skunk sprayed him. As a precaution she took Simon to a veterinarian to be checked out and discovered he was three weeks late on renewing his rabies booster vaccination.

“That’s when I was told they were going to have to contact animal control because his rabies shot had lapsed,” she said. “The next morning I get a call [from animal control] saying they want to quarantine our dog for six months or euthanize him.”

North Carolina law requires pets exposed to animals prone to carry rabies like skunks, foxes, coyotes, bats and raccoons be either euthanized or quarantined, at the owners expense, for six months if their rabies vaccination isn’t up to date.

“It’s due to the fact that rabies can take up to six months before a pet shows signs of the virus,” said Tim Jennings with the Forsyth County Animal Control. “It’s why we stress the importance of keeping pets up to date on their vaccinations.”

Simon is currently being quarantined at an equipped veterinarian office.

“Obviously they want to protect the health of the community,” said Michael McQueen, who plans to appeal the decision because Simon didn’t actually contact the skunk. “You think about a 11-year-old dog, used to living inside with us all these years and is just tossed in a cement 4×6 cage with no contact.”

If the McQueen’s appeal is denied Simon would be required to stay in isolation, without any human or animal contact, till Dec. 6 at a cost of around $3,000.

Veterinarians say rabies boosters vaccinations can easily be overlooked as they are required every three years.

“We just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said April. “Life can be busy but make sure your animals are vaccinated and up-to-date.”

Full article can be found here.

Related articles;
CDC information on how rabies is transmitted.

OK, here are my questions:
  1. How many cases have there ever been where a skunk transmitted rabies via spraying? I couldn't find any, and studies have been done to look for this.
  2. Are state authorities expecting that every skunk sprayed mammal should be reported for possible exposure? If the answer is "Yes" then what are we going to do with humans? Quarantine them for 6 months? Put them through post exposure rabies vaccines? (I called the Rabies Laboratory at Kansas State, they replied "No, they wouldn't put their own child through this.)
  3. Why can't a rabies titer be used instead of quarantine? Especially in light of how minuscule the chances of rabies exposure seems to be in this case. There is an article pending for this in JAVMA.
  4. Was Simon observed when he was sprayed? Almost all of the literature that I found stated that the experts didn't believe that rabies could be spread by skunk spray, but if the animal was close enough to be sprayed was it also close enough to be bitten? By far the largest cause of transmission is via bite wounds.
  5. If the letter of the law has no ability for interpretation and customization to living beings the law will fail the huge majority of the subjects it is meant to serve. Here is a copy of the NC law that governs a possible rabies exposure. Where do I see a problem? "A suspect animal..that has been exposed to saliva or nervous tissue," well, the contents of the anal sacs, or what a skunk sprays when they spray, is pretty similar to the contents of feces, (and jeez lets not even begin to talk about feces exposure..then we can't even step outside and not be exposed). And, in this particular case, if Simon had been boosted with a rabies vaccine within 5 days of exposure would the quarantine period have been influenced? 
My point is that this case against Simon is ridiculous. There has to be a point where over protective, over reactive, knee jerk decisions no longer a realistic representative of an accurate likely scenario.

I called The Rabies Laboratory at Kansas State University, without knowing all of the details of this case, if Simon was indeed ONLY sprayed they claim there is no risk of him being able to contract rabies. They, like me, have contacted the Forsyth County Animal Control. Neither of us have heard back from them.
 After speaking to my local County Health Department representative I learned the following. All rabies suspect cases are forwarded to the State Veterinarian. She decides how long to quarantine and in general has decided the following;
any rabies suspect that has had more than 2 rabies vaccinations, or had received their last rabies vaccine within the last year receives a 45 day quarantine. These quarantines are either double enclosure cages, or in a state approved facility. Any pet that is overdue on their rabies by vaccine by over a year, or not received two vaccines, a one year and a booster is subject to a 6 month quarantine for observation. Any pet that displays evidence of rabies, in general shows any signs of a neurological disorder is euthanized and submitted for rabies testing. (Signs and Symptoms of Rabies, CDC.) To test for rabies the suspected animal is sent to the state lab where two samples from the brain are examined. There hasn't been one conversation with a pet owner where I haven't had to explain that the only way to get brain tissue for sample submission is to euthanize the pet. (CDC Rabies Diagnosis Procedure).

Why am I so interested in this case? Well, the decision to quarantine a pet who is overdue by even one day (ridiculous to believe that one day overdue indicates that the vaccine and the protection it conveys expires on that date).

Related blogs;
Rabies. Your Pets And Your Life On The Line.

The Rabies Raccoon Seven

Rabies. Learning My Lesson The Hard Way

Rabies. Why You Should Worry About It.

As always, you can find me on I am available anytime for your pet questions, or to just share your pet stories. Or you can find me at the clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter, or Google Plus.

Please keep your pets up to date on their rabies. It protects them, you and the rest of our community.

And, always be kind..and stand your ground should the self proclaimed experts make poor decisions.

Update; Simon was quarantined on Monday and released to his family without any explanation given yesterday. 

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