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Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., Published April 13 2010

Euthanized dogs test negative for rabies

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.

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.

Ryan Johnson writes for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.