Danville Area Humane Society provides update on rabies investigation

Danville Area Humane Society quarantines cats
Danville Area Humane Society quarantines cats(Makayla Shelton)
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 12:40 PM EDT
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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Danville Humane Society is providing an update on the investigation into a rabid fox that bit four people in Danville.

The fox was found July 21 near Mount Cross Road and Tyler Avenue.

The agency released a statement via its Facebook page:

“It is time to update you on the current situation which is the result of a rabid fox biting four people in the vicinity of Walmart on Mount Cross Road.

The Danville Police Department, Pittsylvania-Danville Health Department, and the Danville Area Humane Society (by virtue of our sheltering contract with the City) are working together on this very serious situation that has impacted and may continue to impact public health and safety, as well as having consequences for animals.

Let me be very clear. Absolutely no one in any of those entities is enjoying what happened and what must be done. We understand the emotions involved. However, we are dealing with a real-life situation that could have real-life impacts on humans, as well as other animals. We are the ones tasked to do the dirty work that comes because we live in a world where sad and horrible things happen.”

We have been asked why the cats that have been trapped at Walmart will be held ten days and then euthanized and tested for rabies. It is a fair question. Normally, we quarantine dogs and cats that have bitten or scratched a human or animal for ten days. At the end of that time, they can be returned to the owner, placed for adoption (if the bite or scratch was in self-defense, was not a serious wound, etc.; each is decided on a case-by-case basis), transferred to one of our adoption partners, or ultimately euthanized if no one adopts or if no adoption partner accepts them. Life in a cage is not a lifetime option for the animals, in our opinion.

The ten-day quarantine applies to an animal that has bitten or scratched, but has not had any known contact with a rabid animal. These cats from Walmart are different. By virtue of the fact that they have been in the same location as a rabid animal, they are considered to be exposed and the quarantine period would have to be 4 months. (See NASPHVRabiesCompendium.pdf.)

Four months of strict isolation would not be humane for any animal. Yes, it is sad and tragic; however, we are not dealing with a simple disease that can be cured with medical treatment. We are dealing with a disease that is fatal. It would be the wrong to ignore the science, defy instructions from the Health Department, and release cats that have been exposed to a fatal disease. It would also be wrong to force unsocialized cats into living in isolation in cages for four months.

The Danville Police Department is diligently trapping cats at Walmart. We are currently caring for eight quarantined cats. Police Department efforts are being hampered by people who are still throwing food out for the cats. The food is still drawing wildlife into the area; three raccoons and two opossums as of this date have been trapped and euthanized. Thankfully, the rabies test results were negative for the first wild animals trapped and we are waiting for the results of the others.

What can the public do? Vaccinate your cats and dogs, keep your cats inside, do not let your dogs roam, stay away from wildlife, report sick wild animals to the Police Department, and let the authorities deal with a very difficult situation. Remember, no one in the Police Department, Health Department, and Humane Society is enjoying this time.”

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