A Long Beach family's dachshund was put to sleep by regional animal control officials because it had been scratched on its nose by a wild skunk, then nipped the finger of a family member, and apparently had not been inoculated against rabies, it was reported Sunday.
The Long Beach Press-Telegram said the owners of Coco were devastated that their pet was humanely killed, after they say animal control officers impounded the dog with a promise he would not be killed unless he developed rabies.
A manager for Long Beach Animal Care Services, which operates the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village that serves the region including Cerritos, Los Alamitos and Downey--said state law requires euthanizing animals that come into contact with possible rabies carriers that then bite humans. The other choice is to put them in a strict six-month quarantine, but it was not clear why that was apparently not considered.
The skunk escaped into the neighborhood, and rabies tests for exposed pets are considered unreliable unless they include a necropsy of an animal's brain, the village officials said.
``Coco was the family dog,'' owner Robert DeSimone told the Press Telegram. ``I'm incredibly sad and angry that he's gone now.''
DeSimone told the newspaper that Coco went into backyard bushes on June 12 to chase a skunk, and emerged with a scratched nose. The next day, the dachschund nipped DeSimone's finger during a scolding. The finger became infected, DeSimone went to Los Alamitos Medical Center for treatment, and a medical worker called the animal control office because of the rabies risk.
``I was told (the dog) was going to be quarantined for 10 days,'' he was quoted by the Press-telegram as saying. The next day, Coco was euthanized.
``Since we could not locate or test the skunk, a high risk for rabies, we had to assume the dog was exposed and treat him that way,'' said Ted Stevens, the acting director for Long Beach Animal Care Services. ``Due to the exposure to a skunk, no current rabies vaccine and no immediate vaccination after the incident with the skunk, we were left with little choice to require euthanasia,'' he was quoted as saying by the Press-Telegram.
The DeSimone family members said they were not notified that an extreme and expensive vaccination could have been employed immediately after the skunk scratch. Killing a non-vaccinated animal can be avoided if the pet is immediately vaccinated and then placed in strict quarantine -- a cage -- for six months.
Stevens said the incident shows the importance of keeping rabies vaccinations up to date, and keeping records handy. Dogs, cats and other mammals that come into contact with possibly-rabid animals can be revaccinated and then quarantined for just 30 days.
--City News Service