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Protesters clashed with police to try to save 'Ebola dog' from forced euthanasia

Ebola dog

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(NaturalNews) Spanish protesters clashed with police on October 6, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prevent authorities from euthanizing the dog of the first person to acquire Ebola within the country.

The 12-year-old rescue dog, named Excalibur, belonged to Spanish nurse Maria Teresa Romero Ramos, who became the first person to contract Ebola in Europe during the course of caring for a Spanish missionary who had contracted the disease in Africa.

Ramos is currently undergoing treatment, and four other people have been quarantined for observation, including her husband and two other members of her nursing team.

Police drag away protestors

Following the announcement of Ramos's diagnosis, authorities announced plans to euthanize Excalibur as a preventive measure to keep him from spreading Ebola. Although reports say there is no evidence suggesting that dogs are able to transmit the virus to humans, it is a zoonotic disease -- spread from animals to humans -- and can infect dogs without showing symptoms. And because no dog-specific Ebola tests exist, the dog will be euthanized without being tested for an infection.

A Change.org petition was drafted to save the dog, quickly surpassing 350,000 signatures. A complementary Facebook page acquired more than 86,000 "likes," and the Twitter hashtag #SalvarExcalibur ("Save Excalibur") became widespread.

On October 6, protesters amassed to block the entrance to Ramos's apartment in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon. Police initiated a confrontation and forcibly dragged protesters away, allowing authorities to remove the dog.

Between October 7 and October 8, more than 75,000 tweets mentioned Excalibur. By the morning of the eighth, the frequency had reached 142 tweets per minute.

"The dog is fine," said Ramos's husband, Javier Limon, speaking from quarantine. "He has the whole house to himself, with the open terrace so he can do his business."

Limon blasted the authorities for their plans to kill a dog that had no contact with the outside world.

"Are they going to put me to sleep, too?" he asked.

Authorities ignore scientific opportunity, euthanize dog

A 2005 study conducted during an Ebola outbreak in Gabon detected virus antibodies in 40 dogs. In addition, dogs were observed eating the remains of animals infected with Ebola and licking the vomit of Ebola patients. Based on this research, the scientists identified dogs as potential sources of Ebola infection in humans. No direct evidence has linked dogs or any other pets to Ebola transmission, however, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.

Even some researchers who believe that dogs might transmit the virus to humans think that killing Excalibur was a mistake. Eric Leroy, who researched the topic in Gabon in 2001, said a better reaction would be to keep Excalibur under observation and study him if he did indeed develop Ebola -- perhaps thereby gaining important clues to treating the disease.

Citing the need to be cautious, however, Spanish authorities insisted on the importance of euthanizing the dog.

"This just shows the incompetence of those who are handling this crisis," said Javier Moreno, international coordinator of the Spanish animal rights group Igualdad Animal.

In spite of all the protests, Excalibur was euthanized inside Ramos and Limon's apartment, and his body was later incinerated.

U.S. to act differently

Just days later, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first confirmed case of Ebola acquired within the United States, in a nurse who treated Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan.

The infected nurse lived with a dog as well, but officials have announced that the dog will not be euthanized. Instead, said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, the dog will be placed under observation in a separate location.

"We just felt the dog is very important to this hero of a health-care giver and we're going to do anything we can to help," Rawlings said. "I believe the pet hasn't caught anything."






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