Officials at Augusta-Richmond County Animal Control quarantined three dogs Wednesday in a south Augusta community after the animals might have had contact with a rabid raccoon.
The canines - a Dalmatian, a Jack Russell terrier and a German shepherd - attacked a raccoon infected with rabies July 4 when it entered the back yard of resident Kim Jenkins, neighbors said.
"They were tearing the raccoon apart, tossing it around," said Georgia Blackstone, who lives next door to Ms. Jenkins on Fernwood Circle. "I screamed to try to make them stop, but it was dead by then."
A fourth dog involved in the attack, a white beagle mix with one red ear, has not been found, said Animal Control Director Bonnie Bragdon.
Officers from animal control set traps for the dog Wednesday afternoon in the subdivision off Lumpkin Road. Dr. Bragdon said personnel will be out sometime today with tranquilizers to catch the animal.
"If someone spots the dog, they should call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office immediately," Dr. Bragdon said.
The other dogs will be held at animal control until the owners, Ms. Jenkins and her friend, James Curtis, decide to have them quarantined or put to sleep.
"It's a hard decision to make," Ms. Jenkins said. "They're part of the family.
"It's not my fault a stray raccoon came in my yard."
According to health inspector Nate Moorman, there have been 15 rabies cases in Augusta since January. Dogs that are exposed to rabies are quarantined depending on whether or not they've been immunized, he said.
Mr. Curtis' dog, a Dalmatian named Petey, was vaccinated. Another dog he owns, a Jack Russell terrier known as Boozer, was not. Ike, the German shepherd owned by Ms. Jenkins, also was not vaccinated. Owners are required by law to have their pets vaccinated against rabies.
"If a dog has been vaccinated, it's revaccinated and quarantined for 60 days," Mr. Moorman said. "If the dog is not vaccinated, then it should be destroyed immediately or confined for six months."
Animal Control charges $10 a day per dog for quarantine. Dr. Bragdon has given Ms. Jenkins and Mr. Curtis five days without charge to decide the fate of their pets.
"I'm trying to work something out with the health department to find cheaper quarters since this was such a serious problem," Dr. Bragdon said.
Ms. Jenkins said she might have to put Ike to sleep because she can't afford to have him held for six months.
"I don't have a choice," she said. "Who can afford $1,800 up front for a dog?
"Then, if he has it, he'll die anyway."
Reach Albert Ross at (706) 823-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system. The infection destroys brain tissue, which causes symptoms such as erratic behavior and foaming at the mouth, and can be deadly.
The symptoms are the same for animals and humans, said Dr. Frank Rumph, director of the Richmond County Health Department. A person who is exposed to rabies must receive a series of injections that will prevent infection.