Macy's Story: Was She Wrongfully Euthanized?Published May 1, 2012
The family was standing at the Seymour, Missouri city pound tearfully saying goodbye to their 8-year-old lab/boxer mix, Macy. The kids were sobbing and could hardly speak.
Luke Wright, the patriarch, fought back tears as he spoke to the reporter, telling them that Macy had once saved their lives from a charging dog and he wished he could save hers. Macy continued to jump, wag her tail and smile, not realizing these were her last hours on earth.
Around noon on Monday, April 23, Luke heard his dog barking, which he thought unusual as she was a very quiet dog. He looked out and saw a skunk chasing Macy around the yard. Knowing something wasn’t right, he grabbed his gun and shot the skunk, but not before it sprayed Macy.
Luke, a city councilman in Seymour, called the sheriff’s office and took the skunk, as instructed, to a local veterinary clinic to be sent for rabies testing. On Thursday, word came back that the skunk was positive.
Although there was no indication Macy had been bitten by the skunk, she did come into contact with it and that was enough to warrant an investigation into Macy’s vaccination records.
Unfortunately, Macy had not had her rabies shots. Wright was unable to confirm if she had ever been vaccinated. He told Petside.com in an interview, “We had her spayed; she may have received vaccinations then. It was just something we never considered because she wasn’t running loose and didn’t come into contact with many other animals.”
That’s when Wright says a county health department employee called and told him the family would have to quarantine Macy for six months and he had to approve the quarantine. Wright said he presented a couple of ideas, such as penning Macy in a run on a friend’s 60-acre enclosed farm and then putting up another fence around the pen.
Wright says the man from the county health department told him that wasn’t an option as it had to be a vet clinic. The pound, he said was not an option because it opened to the outside where other pets or people might come in contact.
“He told me it would be expensive for six months and I said that was fine, I had people who were willing to help us pay for it,” says Wright. “He then took a call, came back and said that quarantine was no longer an option, he was sorry, but the state veterinarian had ordered Macy killed.”
Wright called an attorney and the news station, which came out at 11 a.m., but by 2 p.m., animal control had taken Macy to a local veterinarian clinic to be euthanized.
Petside.com has since learned the state did not order Macy euthanized. State documents show the county had two options: Quarantine or euthanasia. In part, the order reads: “The animal shall be surrendered to a licensed veterinary facility no later than 12:00 PM, April 27, 2012, for the purpose of quarantine for a period ending on October 26, 2012 or as soon thereafter as possible, OR, for euthanasia and subsequent rabies testing.”
Macy's Story: County Presents Another Version
Richard Mann with the Webster County Health Department was reportedly the official on the scene with the Wrights on Friday. Wright says the city’s animal control officer was also present.
However, Mann referred all questions to Jaci McReynolds, administrator for the Webster County Health Unit. McReynolds denies the county health department was told that the Wrights were seeking proper quarantine placement.
McReynolds says that the Wrights surrendered Macy on Thursday night, giving them no indication they were trying to find suitable quarantine arrangements.
“We had no knowledge he was working on it,” says McReynolds. “We had no information that he was making arrangements for the quarantine and we moved forward with protecting public health.”
Wright says he only surrendered Macy on Thursday to the city pound while he worked to make the arrangements. “I was very clear. I did not give them permission to kill my dog. I was making arrangements to have a double fence at the property and then the man told us it had to be a vet clinic,” says Wright. “There was no misunderstanding. I was very clear I did not want my dog killed and he was very clear that quarantine was not an option. Everyone standing there knows what happened.”
McReynolds says although there is concern now that people may not turn in their pets that have come into contact with a rabid animal, for fear the pet will be killed, she commends the Wrights for doing the right thing. “We understand this was a much loved pet, but they did the right thing,” says McReynolds. “It’s not always popular and not always easy.”
Wright, who is a city councilman, says he was trying to do the right thing by bringing in the skunk, as there have been a higher than average rate of rabies in skunks in nearby Northwestern Arkansas.
He still believes his dog might have been saved with the six-month quarantine and doesn’t believe Macy was ever close enough to the skunk to be bitten.
Macy’s brain has been sent to be tested for rabies and results are expected this week.
Luke Wright says the family is consulting with an attorney and he says he will not speculate as to the motives of the county health officials who, he says, did not give him a choice for Macy.
In the end, this is a sad story, culminating with the tragic death of a pet that had a family who loved her and who misses her. If it has any lessons, it is to get your pets vaccinated if your pet has not had prior vaccine reactions. McReynolds says if Macy had been vaccinated, there definitely would have been a different outcome. Macy would have been ordered quarantined for 45 days and the question of killing her probably wouldn’t have come up, says McReynolds.
As do most U.S. cities and towns, the city of Seymour does require pet owners to vaccinate their pets for rabies, but Police Chief Mike McFarland says the Wrights have not been ticketed.
Pet owners should follow the law and if their pet has come into contact with a suspected rabid animal, notify authorities, but they should also be aware of their rights and ask for any written orders sent by state health officials regarding the pet so they can make an informed decision.
R.I.P., Dear Macy.
What do you think? Should unvaccinated pets that come into contact with rabid animals be immediately euthanized? How do you think pet owners can be better informed about necessary vaccines and about their rights/responsibilities with their pets?