Shelter puts down 26 dogsMore than two dozen dogs were euthanized last week as a precautionary response after a stray dog brought to Grand Forks’ Circle of Friends Humane Society tested positive for rabies, the facility’s executive director said Monday. Arlette Moen said 25 dogs still at the shelter and one that had been adopted were euthanized April 8.
By: By Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — More than two dozen dogs were euthanized last week as a precautionary response after a stray dog brought to Grand Forks’ Circle of Friends Humane Society tested positive for rabies, the facility’s executive director said Monday.
Arlette Moen said 25 dogs still at the shelter and one that had been adopted were euthanized April 8.
It was part of a reaction by state and local public health officials after Cookie, a stray blue heeler mix that was at Circle of Friends until March 20, tested positive for rabies. The positive test results were confirmed March 31.
State Veterinarian Susan Keller said the dogs that were put down were sent to the North Dakota State University diagnostic lab to be incinerated “for safety’s sake.” Samples from the dogs were also tested for rabies.
“Currently, the good news is those animals were negative but that was to be expected,” Keller said.
Officials didn’t expect any positive test results, she said, because these dogs were still early in the rabies incubation period — which can take up to six months before the animals would begin to show symptoms.
“It doesn’t mean that it was all for naught,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the right thing to do. You could have animals that test negative now, but if they were left alive, they could test positive later.”
State epidemiologist Kirby Kruger said the testing let officials know these dogs at the time they were euthanized weren’t shedding any rabies virus — which would have meant they could have put other people or animals at risk for getting the disease.
“Otherwise there would have been unknown human or other exposures that we’d have had to deal with,” he said.
Keller said her office has gotten calls in the last week as people wonder why they had to put down the dogs. But the incident is “very confusing” for residents because it’s such a rare thing, she said.
“We haven’t had this situation happen since I can remember being here,” Keller said. “But we have to deal with the risk to the public.”
‘Close to normal’
The North Dakota Board of Animal Health recommended April 3 that all dogs that may have come into contact with Cookie at the shelter from March 15 to 20 be euthanized. Health officials worked with Moen to determine which dogs could have had contact.
Keller said about 15 dogs that were previously adopted could have come in contact with Cookie. About five of those were also euthanized last week, she said.
There are really only two options for adoptive owners of these animals, with the No. 1 recommendation being to put down the dog. Or, owners can put their pet into strict quarantine for six months.
“Some of those people have probably still not decided yet what they’re going to do,” Keller said. “We haven’t put a timeline on it, so we’re still sort of early in those discussions. It would be nice to know in the near future what everybody’s decision is.”
Moen said the original list of dogs that possibly came in contact with Cookie included more than the 25 shelter dogs that were ultimately put down. But workers were able to spare some of them by verifying the animal was up to date with its rabies vaccinations.
Circle of Friends was closed Thursday, Friday and Saturday last week to give the staff some time to deal with everything, Moen said.
“That was a very difficult day for us,” she said. “The staff members here grew very close to the pets that we take care of. It just was extremely difficult.”
The facility reopened Monday, and the dog rooms will reopen to the public today.
“We’re very comfortable with them opening again,” Keller said.
Moen said things at Circle of Friends are “as close to normal” as they can be considering what’s happened. There’s not much they could have done to prevent the situation, she said.
Workers already follow guidelines that prevent animals from coming into contact with each other, Moen said.
“We don’t have any plans to change our policies because we have good policies in place right now to ensure to the extent that we can that there’s no contact,” she said.
She hoped this case will be a lesson to pet owners about their responsibilities.
“I would just want to remind pet owners how very, very important it is to get their pets vaccinated for rabies,” Moen said. “It’s the one sure thing that would have kept this situation from happening.”
Ryan Johnson is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald,
which is owned by
Forum Communications Co.