Madrid regional government to put down Ebola victim’s dog

Husband of nursing assistant with virus had launched internet campaign to save life of pet

Excálibur, the dog belonging to ebola victim Teresa Romero.
Excálibur, the dog belonging to ebola victim Teresa Romero.

The Madrid regional government confirmed on Tuesday that it would put down the dog belonging to the nursing assistant who was diagnosed with Ebola earlier this week. The husband of Teresa Romero, Javier L. R., began a campaign on the social networks on Tuesday in an attempt to save the life of his pet, named Excalibur.

“We cannot take the risk,” explained Felipe Vilas, head of the Madrid Official College of Veterinarians. His criteria were the determining factor in Madrid regional authorities’s decision to put the animal down.

According to Vilas, few studies on Ebola and dogs exist, but those that have been carried out show that in areas where there has been an outbreak, a significant number of animals present high levels of antibodies, which means they have had contact with the virus. While this does not prove it can be transmitted from canines to humans, it cannot be ruled out that a dog who has been in contact with the virus might not excrete it at some stage, with or without presenting symptoms.

The dog did not need to be put down because it is important from a scientific viewpoint” Leading Ebola expert Eric Leroy

But the leading global expert on Ebola, Eric Leroy, told EL PAÍS that “the dog did not need to be put down because it is important from a scientific viewpoint.”

Among the other few sources of information on the issue is a 2005 statement from the IRD development research institute in Paris, which states that “these domestic animals can become infected and excrete the virus during a determined period, thus becoming a potential source of infection for humans.”

In a message sent out via the social networks on Tuesday, Javier L. R. revealed that staff from the regional government had gotten in touch with him to seek his consent to have the animal put down. As he explained, the dog had been left alone after he and his wife were admitted to the Carlos III hospital. Teresa Romero has been confirmed to have Ebola, after she treated two Spanish missionaries with the virus, while he is under observation in isolation. He also made clear in his statement that he had left the dog with enough food and water to last a number of days.

“This measure is more than justified, no matter how tough it may appear,” Vilas explained. “The protection of the population is the most important factor here. No matter how small the risk, the logical step is to destroy the animal.”

The Madrid regional government has confirmed that it has requested authorization from the dog’s owners to put it down. Should it not get permission, Vilas is unequivocal about what will happen next: a court order will be sought from a judge, a process that could take several days. “The dog is in their house, and the house is closed,” Vilas explained. “He has water and food, so there will be no problem if he is there two or three days.”

Javier and his wife had sent out a number of messages via animal protection associations in a bid to save the dog. The messages were accompanied by images of both the animal and the couple themselves.

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