Residents endure rabies scare

Published 9:32 am Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Richard Luther was making a delivery on Friday, March 24 when he was bitten in the left calf by a German shepherd that hadn’t been vaccinated for rabies.

“I was at the back of the truck and I caught a glimpse of him coming off the porch,” Luther said. “I didn’t even have time to move. He ripped the flesh out of my leg.”

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The attack led to a weeklong ordeal during which Luther feared for his life due to the possibility that he had been infected with rabies.

“That has been as bad as the physical pain,” Luther said. “I’ve hardly slept because we didn’t know, and rabies is deadly.”

There is no way to test for rabies in a living animal as the only way to know for sure if an animal is infected is by examining the brain. If a dog or cat that has not been vaccinated attacks a person, the animal must be impounded at the owner’s expense for a 10-day quarantine. The dog that attacked Luther was one of three dogs impounded at the Vicksburg Warren County Humane Society for quarantine recently following separate incidents.

One of the dogs was still under quarantine as of Monday, but the dog that attacked Luther was euthanized Thursday and its brain was sent to be tested for rabies.

“When they are under observation, I am, by law, obligated if I see any changes in a dog or anything that could remotely make me suspect, I have to get it to a veterinarian and get it tested,” Georgia Lynn of the Humane Society said. “[The dog that attacked Luther] didn’t drink water for two days and it was extremely aggressive.”

The test came back negative on Friday, which Luther said was a “weight lifted.”

“I’ve just got to care for the wound now that I know I’m not going to die of rabies.” he said.

The Humane Society is also currently holding a dog for observation that bit a sheriff’s deputy Friday. The dog had no rabies tag, and when the owner brought it to the Humane Society they were informed the dog was not up to date on its rabies vaccine.

Under Mississippi state law, any domesticated dog or cat is required to receive the rabies vaccine after it turns three months old. A licensed veterinarian must administer the vaccine. According to the statute, failing to vaccinate your dog or cat is a misdemeanor and the owner can face a fine. Mississippi state law also requires that a dog’s rabies tag be displayed on its collar.