ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) - A dog who was euthanized by St. Louis County Animal Care and Control after it was rescued from the cold tested negative for rabies, the county said.
St. Louis County Animal Care & Control said it had no choice but to euthanize the dog that was rescued on February 8.
"We’re a no kill shelter here. We give dogs every chance possible so this is heartbreaking for us," said Natalie Thomson with Stray Rescue.
Stray Rescue said a dog named Faust was suffering from hypothermia and in a coma when she was rescued. She was discovered by a postal worker and Stray Rescue responded when they were called.
Faust was then taken by Stray Rescue to Veterinary Special Services (VSS), an overnight facility in west St. Louis County for dogs on Friday night. Stray Rescue said they got reports that Faust was improving at the facility.
"We have so many people who donated to save her life," said Thomson.
Thousands of dollars had been raised for Faust's care after her rescue was documented on Facebook.
It was February 11 when the rescue group found out that Faust bit a vet tech out of “fear and pain.”
VSS then called St. Louis County Animal Care & Control, who later euthanized her. The county said VSS is required to report any bite that breaks skin which happened in this instance.
Animal Care & Control picked up Faust from VSS and started to exam her in quarantine.
Stray Rescue claims they should have been called instead, saying they were the owner, adding it was their decision to make. They also add that Faust was a rescue from the city not the county.
St. Louis County said it had no choice under state law because she was showing signs of severe neurological defects that might indicate rabies. They claim once possible rabies symptoms are shown they are not allowed to transfer the animal to another facility.
County officials said Faust was stumbling and had trouble staying upright. The rescue claims this could be caused by her other heath issues.
"Of course Faust couldn’t stand up, of course Faust was wobbly, she was frozen to death," said Randy Grim, founder of Stray Rescue.
The county said it consulted with a state veterinarian.
"The combination of circumstances that were here in that Faust was a stray, with no history, or evidence of a vaccine, with these kinds of neurological symptoms and the level of suffering that she was at, and then an exposure to a person that was bit, those are the exact combination that is required for us to euthanize an animal immediately," said Spring Schmidt the interim St. Louis County Department of Public Health Director.
Stray Rescue said at a press conference on February 12 they are calling for a change in culture and compassion at St. Louis County Animal Care & Control. They said every case should be looked at individually.
Schmidt added the vet tech was treated at the hospital and will undergo rabies protocol until tests confirm the results. She added that rabies can only be confirmed after a dog's death once the brain and brain stem are tested.
The brain was been sent off for state testing for rabies, which came back negative, county officials said on Tuesday.
The county and VSS both have said people have been harassing their offices and the county said threats were made on February 11 and police were called.
VSS gave News 4 the following statement about Faust's case:
"Every single member of the VSS team is dedicated to providing the best care possible to the critically ill and injured patients entrusted to us. Our passion is saving animals every day, and it breaks our hearts to lose one. While we know this situation is upsetting, we urge those directing intimidation and outright threats at our staff and other veterinary professionals who spend their waking hours fighting to save animals’ lives to reconsider."
Stray Rescue posted an apology on Instagram, which reads:
"Stray Rescue as an organization would like to apologize and give our total support to the entire veterinary community. You are heroes who save lives every single day. We Cannot understate how difficult it is to work in the field of animal care and the impossible decisions that they are forced to make on a daily basis.
Faust was given amazing care; she miraculously came out of a coma and was only getting stronger. We are sad and regretful that the conversation shifted to blame and backlash. Social media can be such a powerful tool, for good or for bad. Faust should be a symbol for positive change toward more humane animal care and compassion. She is a reminder to us all that there is still a lot of work to be done and that we all need to come together to make these changes possible."
Despite the test being negative for rabies, St. Louis County defended the actions of Animal Care and Control, releasing a statement that read:
"As reported, Faust, a six-year-old pit bull was in critical condition when she was transported to our facility on February 11th after biting a person through the skin. Our veterinary staff immediately observed Faust was suffering and in acute distress. She had multiple signs of neurological damage and other potential signs of rabies with no other presenting cause such as a head trauma. Faust was stumbling, had difficulty lifting herself up and expressed inappropriate neurological responses.
These factors led to our decision to euthanize Faust. The veterinary staff followed all appropriate medical protocols in this case. The State of Missouri has confirmed Faust tested negative for rabies. Our veterinary staff’s decision, while difficult, has been supported by the State Veterinarian and the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association. The protocols we strictly adhere to are important for the protection of both people and animals."