THORNTON, Colo. -- A Thornton teenager thought a Chihuahua mix she rescued from a pack of coyotes would get a second chance, but she learned the Adams County Animal Shelter is now going to put it down because of concern over potential rabies exposure.
Justine Haines and her mother were on an early morning run last week in their Thornton subdivision, when they saw a pack of four coyotes attacking a small dog.
"You can see the bite mark on his neck," said Haines, showing the photograph of the dog she thought she saved from the coyote attack. "We started kicking at them and trying to shoo them off, so they ran back down the street."
They took the dog to the Adams County Animal Shelter for treatment and soon learned the animal was on track to be euthanized.
"This is as sad as it gets. There's no question about it, because we have people in this community who want to keep this dog alive," said Jim Siedlecki, a spokesman for Adams County. "Sadly, this dog will have to be euthanized because of its potential exposure to rabies and the lack of documented vaccination."
Siedlecki said because the dog was attacked by wild animals that could carry rabies and the owner and vaccination history are not known, state protocol requires the animal be euthanized or put in 120-day quarantine, with 90 days in a secure facility and 30 days at home.
"We don’t have the opportunity to hold this animal in our facility for 120 days because it would potentially expose other animals to rabies. Our hands are tied." said Siedlecki. "Let’s be perfectly clear, money has not been an issue, this has not been a cost-of-care issue. This is about the state protocol to make sure we never allow the spread of rabies to become something that it was a long time ago."
Siedlecki said it is an important reminder to pet owners to vaccinate and microchip their pets, and he said the county provides a low-cost clinic to provide those services.
For now, Haines has been going door-to-door in her neighborhood, pass out fliers with the dog's picture on it, trying to find the owner.
"I offered to pay for the quarantine with my college fund and our veterinarian would take him," said Haines. "We want to adopt the dog. We didn't think it was going to be put down."
Siedlecki said there is no timeline for when the animal would be euthanized, but it has already been in the shelter longer than the required five days.
"We hope your coverage brings the owner forward and proof that the animal has been vaccinated," he said.