Following the death of the first patient diagnosed with the Ebola virus in the United States, the news has been revolving around the outbreak in West Africa and the possible implications for the rest of the world. There are currently sixteen confirmed cases of Ebola outside of West Africa. In a majority of these cases, the patients contracted the virus while treating the outbreak in West Africa and then traveled back to their home country for treatment. The concern rapidly escalated from safeguarding oneself from the virus to safeguarding our pets. A nurse in Spain contracted the virus while treating a missionary who returned home to Madrid after treating patients in Africa.
The nurse and her husband are owners of a rescue dog, Excalibur, who quickly became the center of attention for many animal rights activists all over the globe. Spanish authorities stated that Excalibur was to be euthanized to further prevent the spread of the virus after reports suggested that dogs can carry the virus without showing any symptoms. The nurse’s husband publicly pleaded with officials to spare the dog’s life, citing other reports that claim there have not been any cases in which a human contracted the Ebola virus from a dog. Local animal rights activists began protesting outside the nurse’s home while others took to social media to spread the word. Unfortunately, the pleading fell on deaf ears as Excalibur was euthanized and incinerated on Wednesday, October 8th.
Other measures, such as quarantining the dog for the incubation period, could have easily been a viable option to saving this beloved pet. In a case closer to home, the authorities did just that. In Dallas, Texas, a hospital worker was diagnosed with Ebola after treating a recently deceased Ebola patient. The hospital worker was also a dog owner which naturally caused concern among animal rights activists, especially in the wake of Excalibur’s death sentence. Instead of following the path that led to public outcry in Spain, the Mayor of Dallas made a public statement saying that the patient’s dog will not be euthanized, but instead removed from the home to eventually be reunited with the owner.
Just as persons that come into contact with an Ebola patient are quarantined and placed under close observation, there is no reason animals cannot be afforded the same precautions. Even further, if a person is found to have contracted the virus, they are treated, not euthanized. Animals should be afforded the same rights and protections. Although it is possible for dogs to transmit the virus to humans, there are studies that suggest that dogs have not yet passed the virus to humans. While there is no test that can determine whether an animal is carrying the Ebola virus, and dogs often do not show signs, there is no need to take drastic measures where simply monitoring or quarantining the animal will suffice.