Animal Shelter Director Tammy Davis said she hopes the incident won’t cause a knee-jerk reaction for the public or anyone looking for a pet.
“No one should be concerned ... the puppy showed no signs of rabies while at the shelter,” she said. Davis said she learned about the case from the Tennessee Department of Health after the puppy was euthanized and tested.
“We want everyone to know this was an isolated incident and very uncommon,” Davis said. “No one who has been to the shelter is at risk and no other dogs at the shelter are at risk.”
According to Davis, the puppy was likely infected by a wild animal such as a bat, racoon or skunk. People who adopted other puppies from that same litter have been notified. The affected puppy was one of a litter of five that came to the shelter at 10 weeks old. Davis said they were too young to be vaccinated.
The puppies were in isolation for five days to ensure they didn’t have parvo, then became available for adoption. They were on the adoption floor for two days, and three were adopted during that time.
Rabies “is not contagious until it gets to the brain and the animal begins showing symptoms,” she said. The puppy that was confirmed to have rabies “was lethargic and didn’t want to eat or drink. It began to stagger and become aggressive.” The owner realized something was wrong and took the pup to the vet.
Davis said while this particular situation could not have been avoided by vaccination, it is state law that pet owners have their animals vaccinated against rabies.
She said the health department is continuing its investigation.