I’m going to go out on a limb here with a topic that many people have a strong opinion about and that is Excalibur. He was the mixed-breed dog owned by the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola. After it was confirmed that the nurse did indeed have Ebola, the dog was euthanized despite protests around Spain and petitions that traveled the globe gaining hundreds of thousands of signatures. People were and continue to be outraged. Meanwhile, Bentley, the dog of the US nurse who contracted Ebola has been quarantined. Two different approaches to the same problem, the canine companion of a person who was diagnosed with Ebola. Which one is right?
The reality is that both are valid responses to the issue. Unfortunately, not very much is known as to whether dogs can spread Ebola. What is known is that some dogs that ate flesh from the bodies of victims who succumbed to Ebola in a previous outbreak did have antibodies to Ebola in their blood, which is enough to suggest that it is possible that dogs could spread the disease. However, it only concretely proves that they were exposed to the virus. There has never been a report of clinical disease associated with Ebola in a dog or of a person catching Ebola from a dog. That is enough for some people to be outraged that Excalibur was euthanized. With that in mind though, consider that all previous outbreaks have been in Africa, most of them in rural Africa, where health care, education, etc, are limited. No controlled scientific studies have been done regarding a dog’s capability to transmit Ebola to a person (not many people would line up to participate in any case). In addition, if a dog could transmit Ebola to a person, we have no clue whether it can only do so for 21 days, a month, or ?
Spanish authorities chose to take an approach that completely eliminated the risk that the dog would be able to infect another human being. While heartbreaking, it is an understandable approach when you assess the current outbreak of Ebola, its mortality rate, the panic it causes, etc. They didn’t want to take a single chance. In the US, Bentley is in quarantine, of so far an undetermined length, at a naval base.
I sympathize with both sides in this case. I certainly don’t want to see any animal unnecessarily euthanized, especially when we could have potentially learned from Excalibur as to how Ebola can affect a dog, but in this scenario, we just don’t know enough to be able to fully analyze the situation. Unfortunately, that means authorities have to make the call they think is best given the information they have.