Spanish authorities euthanize dog as fear of Ebola spreads


By Marilynn Marchione, AP

Ebola’s victims may include a dog named Excalibur. Officials in Madrid got a court order to euthanize the pet of a Spanish nursing assistant with Ebola because of the chance the animal might spread the disease.

At least one major study suggests that dogs can be infected with the deadly virus without having symptoms. But whether or how likely they are to spread it to people is less clear.

Lab experiments on other animals suggest their urine, saliva or stool might contain the virus. That means that in theory, people might catch it through an infected dog licking or biting them, or from grooming.

“Clearly we want to look at all possibilities. We have not identified this as a means of transmission,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nursing assistant and her husband have been in isolation since she tested positive for Ebola earlier this week. She was part of a team at a Madrid hospital that cared for a missionary priest who died of Ebola.

The Madrid regional government got a court order to euthanize their dog, saying “available scientific information” can’t rule out it could spread the virus.

The dog’s owners don’t want it killed. Carlos Rodriguez, a Spanish veterinarian and host of a talk show about animals, said the husband messaged him from the hospital, trying to grant him temporary custody of the mixed-breed dog.

But now that there is a court order, “I can’t stop this happening,” Rodriguez said. The husband “asked me, crying, to at least make sure the animal does not suffer.”

The Spanish animal rights group Animal Equality complained that authorities wanted to “sacrifice the animal without even diagnosing it or considering the possibility of placing it in quarantine.”

It’s not clear how effective quarantine would be, since infected dogs don’t show symptoms and it’s not known how long the virus can last in them, or how long tests would have to be done to check for it.

Dr. Peter Cowen, a veterinarian at North Carolina State University who has advised global health experts on animal infection disease risks, says killing the dog is “clearly an overreaction.”