'No need for those animals to be euthanized'
By Sian Perry, News-Leader
On July 11, Nassau County Animal Control collected five kittens and two dogs from three Bryceville homes, euthanized them and sent their heads to the state Department of Health laboratory in Jacksonville for rabies testing.
The roundup came four days after Beth Rood notified Animal Control that her kitten had caught a bat that appeared to be rabid and delivered both to the shelter on License Road in Yulee. The bat tested positive for the viral infection.
The owners say what happened next was the needless killing of their pets. Animal Control says it was simply following state Department of Health protocol.
Pamela Gambrell's 10-month-old mixed breed bullmastiff dogs, Buddha and Dozer, were among those euthanized.
Gambrell said she was given the choice to quarantine the animals for six months at her own expense, but could not afford to do that. She said when she signed over her pets to Animal Control, she did not understand they would not be coming back.
The other cats were never tested because they were euthanized within four days of their possible exposure and the rabies incubation period is typically nine days; the dogs were never considered at risk of having the viral infection, according to health department documents.
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What the law says: Florida State Department of Health rabies guidelines:
~~ Animal to Animal Exposure: As a general rule, bats, bobcats, foxes, raccoons and feral cats that have attacked or been in contact with pet dogs and cats or domesticated livestock are tested free of charge. This approach expedites appropriate post-exposure management of the exposed animal (i.e., release, euthanasia or observation and vaccination).
Public health officials recommend euthanizing unvaccinated dogs, cats, ferrets and livestock exposed to a suspect rabid animal or any wild carnivorous mammal or bat not available for testing.
Animals euthanized immediately after a rabid animal exposure should NOT be submitted for rabies examination. If the owner is unwilling to do this, the exposed animal should be kept under close observation for six months, with dogs, cats and ferrets vaccinated one month before release. Exposed animals that are currently vaccinated should be revaccinated immediately and observed for 45 days.
~~ Animal to Human Exposure: The DOH Bureau of Laboratories does not charge for examination of "high-risk" animals, e.g., raccoons, bats, bobcats, skunks, foxes, feral cats, etc., that have bitten or otherwise exposed (scratches contaminated with saliva, etc.) people to rabies.
Whenever possible, pet dogs, cats and ferrets that expose people should be confined and observed for 10 days. However, when unwanted pets or strays are involved in exposures and they are unsuitable for observation at an animal control facility or veterinary clinic they may be euthanized and their heads submitted for examination without charge.