Kennel worker bitten by rabid puppy
AN ANIMAL charity worker was bitten by a rabid puppy in a London quarantine kennels shortly before the dog was diagnosed as having the disease.
Kim Cooling, who runs the animal rescue charity Animal SOS Sri Lanka, based in Palmer’s Green, London had imported the puppy and four others from Sri Lanka. The eight-week-old puppy also bit two staff members - a man and woman - at the kennels in Chingford as its behaviour became increasingly 'snappy'.
Kim and the staff members were given a clean bill of health by doctors after receiving anti-rabies booster injections. DEFRA announced that any potential outbreak of the disease had been contained and that Britain remained rabies-free following the incident.
Kim spoke exclusively to OUR DOGS earlier this week to explain what had happened, as the story had been misreported in national newspapers over the weekend and earlier this week.
‘I had been out in Sri Lanka recently with some friends who are volunteers for Animal SOS Sri Lanka on one of our regular monitoring trips,’ explained Mrs Cooling.’ It was inaccurately reported in several national papers that the charity imports unwanted animals from Sri Lanka and this is not the case at all. The charity operates in Sri Lanka to ensure that stray dogs and cats are given veterinary treatment and are neutered. We are currently in the process of buying some land in order to establish a permanent veterinary welfare centre there and part of our trip involved checking over the suitability some land that had become available.’
Whilst the charity workers were there, they found five stray puppies, all aged around seven or eight weeks in the street and wondered what to do with them.
‘As is so very often the case, we were faced with a dilemma as to what to do with the poor mites,’ said Mrs Cooling. ‘One of my colleagues who is a police officer back home said that she would sponsor the quarantine costs for three of the puppies, whilst Georgie, our veterinary nurse who runs her own rescue said she would sponsor another one, whilst some of our supporters here in the UK pledged to support the costs for the fifth puppy.’
The five puppies were shipped into the UK on Thursday April 17th and were taken to Chingford quarantine kennels – part of the Goddard veterinary group - in East London, where they all settled happily into two groups in two pens. None of the puppies displayed any signs of serious ill health, apart from one which had rickets, which were being treated.
‘I saw the puppies on the Sunday after they arrived (19th April) and they were all fine, very excitable as puppies are and settling in very well,’ said Mrs Cooling. ‘The puppy that became ill was called Milly, and her demeanour changed when I saw her next. She was very wobbly on her feet, as though her ankles had weakened, and she became snappy towards the other two puppies in her pen and they were afraid of her. She went to bite one and I put my hand out to stop her, which was when she nipped me. The nips hardly even drew blood, but it was a bit of a shock.’
Kim received three small bites to her wrist, chin and face, but ‘none were deep or particularly painful’, she added. ‘It was more of a shock really and my main concern was for Milly.’
Kim advised the kennel manageress what had happened and was told that they would monitor Milly’s behaviour. However, the puppy’s condition deteriorated rapidly. The kennels informed Kim on Wednesday April 23rd that they tried to treat Milly and insert a drip into her, but she had nipped the manageress and another member of staff and had died soon afterwards. As a precaution, the kennel vets had to decapitate the dead puppy and send its head to a DEFRA laboratory to be checked as a precautionary measure for rabies.
On Friday last week, Kim was contacted by a DEFRA vet who told her that the puppy had tested positive for rabies and she was advised to go to hospital for a rabies booster injection. ‘I went to Whipp’s Cross hospital. I am already vaccinated against rabies as a precaution, but it was prudent to have a booster because of the puppy’s level of infection’ said Kim. ‘On my way to the hospital the kennels called me and told me that a Government vet was there and wanted to speak to me. He came on the line told me that the other four puppies would have to be put to sleep too as a precaution and their brains tested for rabies. I begged him in tears not to do it, but he was adamant. At one stage he said they were considering putting down all the dogs in the adjacent kennels, but I feel that was a blackmail attempt to make me co-operate.’
The puppies were duly put to sleep and decapitated but were later found to test negative for rabies, so Milly had been the only one infected.
When Kim arrived at the hospital, there was no rabies vaccine in stock and eventually a Health Protection Agency official brought the vaccine to the hospital in the early hours of the morning. Kim was duly vaccinated and allowed to leave at 3am.
Kim is still being monitored by the government's Health Protection Agency, said she felt fine. 'I am shattered at the moment, I feel really ill because of the vaccine, but I am otherwise okay. I just feel that DEFRA over-reacted with the other puppies. After all, they had been isolated and were in quarantine for six months – they could have been monitored rather than killed.’
The two members of staff at the privately owned kennels who had been bitten were also said to be showing no signs of ill health after having already received an anti-rabies vaccination. Describing the bites as 'playful little nips', Jeremy Robinson, general manager of the kennel, said all five puppies had been placed in isolation units before being destroyed. ‘I am confident that no other animals can have been infected,’ he said.
A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said: ‘We understand that three individuals who were bitten by the animal in the quarantine centre have received prompt protective treatment with appropriate vaccination and are well.’
‘We understand that three individuals who were bitten by the animal in the quarantine centre have received prompt protective treatment with appropriate vaccination and are well.’
DEFRA’s Acting Chief Veterinary Officer Alick Simmons defended the draconian actions taken by putting the puppies to sleep, saying: ‘While initial tests show that this puppy has tested positive for rabies, this shows that the system is working and the case has been picked up while the animal is in quarantine.
‘We are now tracing animals that have moved from the kennels to ensure that all animals that have come into contact with the puppy are monitored.’
* The last rabies death in Britain occurred six years ago when David McRae, 56, a conservationist, was bitten by a rabid bat near Dundee.