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Rescued Exotic Animal Euthanized After Rabies Scare

Zoo director: “Another animal has paid with its life because people are still allowed to own some exotic animals in the state of Michigan ..."

A white-nosed coati similar to the one pictured above was euthanized so it could be tested for rabies after biting a Warren resident who tried to corral the animal after it escaped from a neighbor’s garage. (Photo: @NamdurApi via Flickr)
A white-nosed coati similar to the one pictured above was euthanized so it could be tested for rabies after biting a Warren resident who tried to corral the animal after it escaped from a neighbor’s garage. (Photo: @NamdurApi via Flickr)

An exotic white-nosed coati on the loose in the city of Warren last week whose capture led to the discovery and rescue of 30 animals being kept in a residential garage has been euthanized at the direction of the Macomb County Health Department.

“This is a really sad and unfortunate turn of events,” Ron Kagan, Detroit Zoological Society executive director and CEO, said in a news release. “Another animal has paid with its life because people are still allowed to own some exotic animals in the state of Michigan, putting animals – including domestic pets – and humans at risk.”

The male white-nosed coati – a South American mammal the size of a red panda – escaped its cage on July 9 and explored the neighborhood before being spotted by neighbors, who then called animal control officials.

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The zoo was asked to help after 29 other animals were found at a home on Frazho Road.

Exotic mammals – including a second white-nosed coati, two ring-tailed lemurs (native to Madagascar) and three fennec foxes (native to Africa) – were discovered along with several small mammals and birds that were being kept in small cages.

The zoo said the male coati was acquired last year from Walk on the Wild Side in Hudsonville, and one of the fennec foxes was obtained in 2004 from a private dealer in Snover.

The zoo staff agreed to take the animals under their care, but soon learned that a neighbor reported being bitten by a coati during its escape. Physicians could not rule out the potential for rabies exposure due to the nature of the man’s wounds.

The man began vaccine treatment, and the Macomb County Health Department formally directed euthanasia and testing of the animal’s brain – the only way to diagnose rabies.

The necropsy occurred on July 11 but showed no evidence of rabies.

Though the birds and small mammals were transferred to the Michigan Humane Society, the exotic animals remain in the care of Detroit Zoo staff.

“The other animals are being examined for medical issues and tested for infectious diseases,” said Dr. Ann Duncan, the zoo’s chief veterinarian, who is overseeing the animals’ care at the zoo’s Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex.

“Exotic animals require specialized veterinary care, which privately owned animals rarely receive,” Duncan said. “We are following strict quarantine protocols as these animals are examined and cared for.”

The animals will be under quarantine for at least 30 days; primate protocol can be up to 90 days. Permanent homes for the other coati as well as the lemurs and foxes have yet to be determined.

“We are going to be spending a lot of time, energy and resources on these animals,” Kagan said. “They haven’t had the proper care – including the health care – they need.”

Gayle ONeal July 17, 2014 at 07:07 PM
There ARE other methods to test an animal for Rabies: Rabies Diagnosis in Animals: Based on routine public health surveillance and pathogenesis studies, we have learned that it is not necessary to euthanize and test all animals that bite or otherwise potentially expose a person to rabies. For animals with a low probability of rabies such as dogs, cats, and ferrets, observation periods (10 days) may be appropriate to rule out the risk of potential human rabies exposure. Consultation with a local or state health official following a potential exposure can help determine the best course of action based on current public health recommendations. BioPro Rabies ELISA Ab kit was developed and validated for detection of rabies antibodies in domesticated and wild carnivores. In comparison to “golden standard” methods like FAVN or RFFIT the use of BioPro RABIES ELISA Ab kit is much easier, rapid and convenient. Tests that do not require euthanasia can be used to examine serum, spinal fluid, and saliva, but none of them can rule out rabies with 100 percent certainty. These tests are used only in humans and animals that cannot be euthanized.

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