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Tag: euthanasia

Dogs and Ebola: Looking for answers

bubbledog

You’d think in a world preparing for Ebola — especially in a country as sophisticated, dog-crazy and health-oriented as ours — someone would have given it at least a moment’s thought.

You’d think — between all the agencies and organizations, protocols and precautions; between the National Institutes for Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association — someone somewhere would have stood up and said, hey, what about our dogs?

Instead, with Ebola’s spread to countries outside Africa, public health officials find themselves scratching their heads and — even though there’s no proof yet that dogs can transmit the disease — considering options as drastic as incarceration and extermination for the pets of humans diagnosed with Ebola.

Caution, of course, is good, but planning would have been better.

Excalibur was the first one to come to light. The large mixed-breed dog belonged to a nurse in Madrid who contracted the disease from Spain’s first Ebola patient. Her dog, over the family’s objections, was killed and incinerated nearly immediately upon the order of government officials.

America, or at least Dallas, took a more compassionate approach when a local nurse was determined to have contracted Ebola from a patient being treated in a hospital there. Bentley, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, was moved into a quarantined area at a decommissioned Naval base, where he’s being tended to by hazardous material crews in full protective garb.

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Bentley

The question arises, and should have arisen long ago: What are we going to do with the pets of Ebola victims?

Will we turn to extermination, as the number of cases, and our fears, increase?

Will we keep them isolated in crates, bubbles or decommissioned military bases?

For how long? At what costs? Under whose supervision? And is it even necessary?

No one knows the answers to any of those questions, and the fear and uncertainty that ignorance leads to is bound to take us to some bad places, if it hasn’t already.

In an ideal world, we’d have studies to turn to — proving, one way or the other, whether dogs can contract and transmit the virus. We’d be testing them, as we do humans, before quarantining them, or at least before releasing them from that quarantine. We’d know how long, if at all, they need to be sequestered and monitored.

Instead, we’re playing a messy game of catch-up, and the argument can be made that it’s because we were wearing blinders.

Even in this supposed era of increased awareness about the health issues that cross species lines, our planet seems to once again have gotten caught up in the view that only humans matter.

Perhaps too it could be argued that, among many in America, some strange disease in Africa didn’t strike us as a big concern, or as an opportunity to learn and prepare for what might be coming. (Maybe we humans don’t like to look at the big picture when the big picture is too big, and too scary.)

What is abundantly clear is that no one, up until now, gave much thought to how Ebola might affect our dogs — if not the disease itself, at least the fear of it.

No one knows whether dogs can get the full-fledged virus. One study during the 2001-02 Ebola outbreak in Gabon showed some exposed dogs carried signs of infection, and had an immune response — but that’s not the same as getting the disease.

“Studies have shown that dogs can have an immune response to Ebola, but there have been no reports of pet dogs or cats becoming sick with Ebola or of passing the disease to other animals or people,” said Kristen Nordlund, a CDC health-communications specialist.

“In a situation where there is a dog or cat in the home of an Ebola patient, CDC recommends public-health officials evaluate the animal’s risk of exposure,” she added.

Given dogs are present in nearly half of American homes, given many of them share our beds and lick our faces, we’d like to see the CDC recommending something more than “risk evaluation.”

excalibur2

Excalibur

Between the lack of knowledge, and the lack of a clear-cut recommended response when it comes to the pets of Ebola victims, public fears will only snowball as questions go unanswered.

Why, given all our physiological similarities, can’t the dogs of Ebola patients be tested like humans are to confirm if they’ve been exposed? And if, as limited study suggests, dogs can have the virus without getting sick and dying, might there be something worth further studying in that?

“We know that you and your clients are looking for answers, and we’re working to get information for you,” the American Veterinary Medical Association says on its website.

“The AVMA is collaborating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA along with other agencies and experts and is tapping into the broad expertise of our member veterinarians to develop information for our members and the public. We will strive to ensure that veterinarians have a prominent voice as these issues are discussed and decided in the U.S.”

Up until now, the CDC has taken the line that the risk of Ebola to pets is low. Its website also says there is little risk of an Ebola outbreak in the U.S.

“The risk of an Ebola outbreak affecting multiple people in the United States is very low,” says a question and answer fact sheet on the CDC website.. “Therefore, the risk to pets is also very low, as they would have to come into contact with blood and body fluids of a person with Ebola. Even in areas in Africa where Ebola is present, there have been no reports of dogs and cats becoming sick with Ebola.”

And yet Excalibur is dead and Bentley is being treated as hazardous material, and with each new case there will be new fears and ripples.

In Madrid, a dog that often played with Excalibur was surrendered to a shelter by his owners because of fears he might have contracted the disease.

tronco

Tronco

Tronco was dropped off by his owners at the Spanish animal charity Escuela Canina Esga in Madrid, according to the New York Post.

“They were parents with young children and they just were not prepared to take the risk and so [they] handed him over to us,” said manager Esga Juan Esteban. “We did everything we could to reassure them that it was probably OK, but of course we couldn’t guarantee that the animal didn’t have Ebola, and so they were adamant that they didn’t want him any longer.”

The shelter, in its effort (successful) to find Tronco a new home, used only photos of him as a pup — so that, once he was adopted, he wouldn’t be recognized in public as a dog who once played with a dog whose owner has Ebola.

(Top photo: The image of Soviet Space dog Belka is from the distant past, but might we see something like it in the near future?)

Dog of Ebola victim in Dallas moved to “undisclosed location”

pham

Bentley, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel that belongs to Ebola-stricken nurse Nina Pham, won’t be euthanized, according to Dallas officials.

Unlike in Spain, where that country’s first Ebola victim saw her dog killed and incinerated — despite no confirmation that the pet was carrying the virus, despite pleas from his owner, and despite an international outcry — officials in Dallas say they will go to great lengths to ensure that Bentley lives on.

“If that dog has to be the boy in a plastic bubble  … We are going to take good care of that dog,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said.

Pham, the first American to contract Ebola while in the U.S., was part of the team that cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian citizen who died of Ebola after traveling to Dallas.

Pham, 26, was reported in stable condition Monday at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she works.

Dallas officials haven’t outlined specific plans for her dog, but they’ve confirmed he has been removed from Pham’s apartment and is being kept in isolation at an undisclosed location.

Pham, 26, graduated from Texas Christian University’s nursing program in 2010.

Bentley remained alone in Pham’s apartment through the weekend, and was brought food and water.

On Monday, Dallas Animal Services confirmed that Bentley was safe and posted images on its Facebook page of the operation to move the dog from Pham’s home, NBC reported.

But where Bentley will reside; how much, if any, contact he’ll have with humans and other dogs; and how long his isolation might last are questions public health officials aren’t answering — primarily because they don’t have those answers.

“This was a new twist,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told USA TODAY. He said the dog will be cared for until his owner recovers. “The dog’s very important to the patient and we want it to be safe,” he said.

While there are no documented cases of Ebola spreading to people from dogs, at least one study suggests dogs can get the disease without showing symptoms. Experts say they are uncertain what risk that poses to humans.

Richard Hill, spokesperson for the Dallas’ Office of Emergency Management, said the dog  would be held in isolation from other dogs and people and will likely be monitored for signs of the virus for 21 days, the same period used for people who may have come into contact with the virus.

“Wherever Bentley ends up, whatever [sort of facility] he’ll be in, he’ll be by himself,” he said.

In Spain last week, the Madrid regional government, facing its first case of Ebola, euthanized Excalibur, the mixed breed dog of a nursing assistant diagnosed with the virus.

(Photo: Pham and Bentley, provided by family)

Lazarus: The dog who couldn’t be put down

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Three weeks after he was surrendered by his owners, an unwanted four-year-old mixed breed dog received what was supposed to be a lethal injection.

An animal control worker at the Ozark City Animal Shelter in Alabama watched as a contract veterinarian inserted the needle. The dog became still and quiet, and was presumed dead when everyone went home for the night.

When the time came, the next morning, to remove his body from the pen he was left in, the dog was up and about, had moved to an outdoor pen and, while a little wobbly, had helped himself to some water.

“He was back up and breathing and going right about business like it’s nothing,” said Ozark police Capt. Bobby Blankenship, who supervises the city shelter.

The police captain’s daughter, who works as a volunteer at the shelter, explained it this way: “His body overcame and he had a will to live,” said Cortney Blankenship, “and somehow, someway he made it through.”

The dog arrived at the shelter on Aug. 19 after being dropped off by his owner, who Blankenship said was moving and could no longer care for him. The animal was cut and bloody after being struck by a car and a pad on its left rear foot was missing.

Blankenship tried to find an adoptive home or rescue group that wanted him, but when no one stepped forward, the lethal injection was carried out on Sept. 10.

Shelter staff don’t know what kept the dog from dying, and they declined to release the name of the veterinarian who performed the injection, according to an Associated Press report.

Possibly an improper dosage was used, or the needle missed the vein.

In any event, the dog — since named Lazarus — recovered, and found a home after Cortney Blankenship posted the story of his survival on Facebook.

Lazarus was picked up from the shelter by Two by Two Animal Rescue, and later delivered to Jane Holston who lives in a suburb of Birmingham suburb.

He has heartworms, and one leg is in a cast from the car accident, but Lazarus is over the effects of his lethal injection.

“He’s not skittish, he’s not afraid of anything, anybody, any sounds. I mean, it’s just amazing what all he has been through,” Holston said.

(Photo: Lazarus, with his new owner, Jane Holston, in Helena, Ala.; by Jay Reeves / Associated Press)

Pit bull stabbed at adoption event in Georgia

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A pit bull being shown at an adoption event at a PetSmart outside Atlanta on Sunday got loose from her handler, attacked a smaller dog and was repeatedly stabbed by the smaller dog’s owner.

Clara, a pit bull who was being fostered and who was taken to the event in hopes of finding an adoptive home, was euthanized due to the severity of her injuries, the local humane society said.

The smaller dog, a West Highland terrier, spent a night in an emergency vet’s office and was released to her owner Monday.

As reported in the Times-Herald, Clara, who has been living in a foster home, had been brought to the event by the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society in hopes of finding her a permanent home. The Westie belonged to a customer in the store — one who, according to witnesses, had a low opinion of pit bulls.

Witnesses say the smaller dog growled at the larger one when they walked past each other inside the store. Shortly after that, Clara pulled free from her handler and ran at the smaller dog.

The Westie’s owner tried to pull the pit bull off his dog, kicked her and stabbed her several times with a pocket knife. While doing so, some witnesses said, he was repeatedly screaming, “F—ing pit bulls!”

clara“The guy was just screaming ‘‘f***ing pit bull, why are you even allowed to have these dogs?’” Teresa Reeves, who attended the adoption even with her fiance, Mike Wohler, told the Times-Herald.

Clara was holding the smaller dog by the scruff of her neck or ear,  and both dogs were still, Reeves said. “Clara wasn’t clamped down on the dog. Mike was able to put his hands in her mouth,” she said. “…They were just standing there. It could have easily been broken up.”

After the man started stabbing the pit bull, his son screamed for him to stop. Clara is believed to have been stabbed up to six times.

PetSmart staff also attempted to break the dogs up using air horns and spray bottles.

Sandy Hiser, with the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society, said that once the dogs were separated, Clara’s wounds turned out to be worse than originally thought. She sat back and was wagging her tail when it was noticed she was bleeding, and making a gurgling noise when she breathed.

Hiser said Clara’s injuries were “so extensive that if she did pull through, it would have impacted her quality of life.”

Police responded but no charges have been filed. Hiser said an officer told her that the man “had a right to defend his dog.”

The case is still being investigated by Newnan’s animal warden.

One witness said she heard the Westie’s owner complaining about pit bulls even before the attack.

Clara was being returned to the store from a trip outside when the man said, “If you bring that f***ing pit bull near me I’m going to stab it,” said Erin Burr, who was attending the adoption event.

According to a Facebook page set up in hopes of getting Clara adopted, she’d lived over half her life in a boarding kennel. It also notes she had problems being “dog tolerant.” Posts note that the page was started after she was banned from an earlier adoption event.

(Photos from the “Clicks for Clara” Facebook page)

Duke’s last day

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When a friend had to put her dog down a week ago, Houston photographer Robyn Arouty joined her to provide some moral support, and to document Duke’s bittersweet last day with her camera.

Arouty, who is also an animal rescuer and advocate, joined her friend Jordan Roberts on July 7 as she let Duke feast on hamburgers and visit a water park before he received a lethal injection — all while surrounded by friends.

Duke, a black Lab, was diagnosed a few years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, and had his right front leg removed. The cancer came back, though, and was spreading.

“His tumor was growing rapidly and we were out of options,” Roberts said. “He would rally during the day, but his nights were increasingly uncomfortable as his tumor started to separate his ribs. We struggled with the decision to let Dukey go, but ultimately did everything in our power to protect him from further pain.”

duke2She made an appointment with a vet to have him euthanized on Monday, July 7. Then she called Arouty, who had taken photos for her before. She told her about her plans for Duke’s last day and asked her to photograph it.

Arouty’s photos show Duke and friends eating hamburgers in the morning, visiting a water park, and cuddling with friends.

Along with the photos, Arouty told the story of Duke (narrated from his point of view) on  her blog . (Note: At the time of this writing, it was having some technical difficulties.)

“Jordan let me know she had scheduled the appointment with the vet and the words just came,” Arouty told KSL.com. “See, I have lost three of my own dogs in the past year and a half.”

“With the help from our friends, Dukey had a beautiful day filled with love and happiness,” his owner said. “We should all be so lucky.”

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(Photos: From Robyn Arouty’s Facebook page)

Another N.C. county retires its gas chamber; invites the public to come give it a whack

clevelandcounty

Another North Carolina county has abandoned use of the gas chamber to kill unwanted dogs — and it said goodbye by allowing critics of the ghastly contraption to take a few whacks at it with a sledgehammer.

Animal advocates from Cleveland County rallied against use of the gas chamber last summer, and the county ceased using it a couple of months ago, switching to lethal injections to “euthanize” dogs.

(We put euthanize in quotes because the word means mercy killing, and, as we see it, killing animals due to overcrowding isn’t really merciful.)

Especially not in a gas chamber — a device still used in eight North Carolina counties.

In Cleveland County, where hundreds petitioned to end its use, the gas chamber met its doom Saturday, when, as part of a fundraiser at Tractor Supply in Shelby, residents were invited to take a whack at it with a sledgehammer.

One whack was $5; three whacks ran $10, the Shelby Star reported.

A balloon release was held to close the event, commemorating dogs and cats that lost their lives in the gas chamber.

“We talked about a lot of different things but it seemed to be that the most common thing in different places was that they used a sledgehammer,” said Deb Hardin, a volunteer with the Clifford Army Rescue Extravaganza (CARE), a nonprofit animal assistance organization in Cleveland County.

All proceeds from the fundraiser support the care of animals at Cleveland County Animal Control.

North Carolina is one of about a dozen states still killing shelter animals in gas chambers, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Eight of the state’s 100 counties still use gas, the Charlotte Observer reported last week.

Iredell and Cabarrus stopped using gas last year.

(Photo: Shelby Star)

Fort Worth vet admits to keeping five “euthanized” dogs alive to harvest blood

leonberger

Sid, the Leonberger, apparently wasn’t the only dog a Fort Worth veterinarian promised to euthanize, then kept alive for the purpose of harvesting blood.

Millard “Lou” Tierce III, owner of Camp Bowie Animal Clinic, told investigators in a written statement that there were at least five dogs that — after assuring owners he was going to euthanize their pets — he secretly kept alive for blood transfusions and experimentation.

tierceTierce was arrested April 30 and charged with animal cruelty.

The Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners has scheduled a hearing on whether Tierce, whose license has been temporarily suspended, should face permanent suspension.

That’s scheduled for May 9 in Austin, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The investigations of Tierce began when Sid’s owners filed a complaint against him.

Marian and James Harris said they took their 170-pound Leonberger to Tierce’s clinic in May 2013 for a minor gland problem. Tierce kept the dog at his clinic for six months, during which time he performed cold laser therapy. In October, though, he told the couple the dog should be euthanized due to a birth defect in his spine.

The couple agreed to have Sid euthanized, and Tierce promised to bury the dog at his farm.

Last month, though, a former clinic employee told the Harrises that Sid was still alive, and being kept in a cage for all but 30 minutes a day.

Upon learning that, the Harrises went to the clinic and removed their dog.

On April 29, the board conducted a clinic inspection and found ”animal organs were kept in jars throughout the clinic. Bugs were visible in exam rooms. Stacks of drugs, trash, laundry, paperwork and other miscellaneous material were strewn about the examination rooms, hallways, stairwells, operating room, laboratories and offices of the clinic.”

Board investigators received a signed, handwritten statement from Tierce that he had accepted five animals for euthanasia and had kept them at his clinic without euthanizing them, the report stated.

Fort Worth police also went to the clinic on April 29, along with an outside veterinarian who concluded three other dogs being held there were suffering so much they should have been euthanized — including one who belonged to Tierce.

According to Tierce’s arrest warrant, a clinic employee told police that Tierce’s dog, a border collie, had been lying on a pallet in the same spot since she started work in June, without receiving medical treatment.

To do this, repeating what we mean when we talk about their existence.