Two poodles fatally injured a rabid raccoon in a fight Friday night, and their owners, a Catonsville couple, are gambling that the dogs won't contract the fatal disease.
The alternative was euthanasia.
"We faced a pretty tough choice, whether to isolate them for six months and take our chances or have them put down," Deborah Fields said yesterday, shortly after having Thumper, 2, and Pooch, 4 1/2 , vaccinated at the Falls Road Animal Hospital.
"I made a big mistake," Mrs. Fields said, "I've learned something from this, that it's very important to have your dogs vaccinated." She also said she planned to buy licenses for them immediately.
Sewell Price of the Bureau of Animal Control said he will inspect the Fields' property in the 100 block of Montrose Ave. tomorrow to see that it meets state requirements to quarantine Thumper and Pooch for six months, assuming that neither dog contracts rabies in the meantime. The dogs will be allowed in the yard only on leashes and under constant supervision, she said. They will be kept in the basement.
Dr. Keith Gold, who treated the dogs, said that, depending on the location of an injury inflicted by an infected animal, rabies can take anywhere from a month to six months to appear because the virus travels along the nervous system to the brain.
Mr. Price said there are no other current reports of possible rabies contacts in the Fields' neighborhood
The Fields believe the raccoon entered their enclosed yard, possibly by climbing over the fence. After the Fields got their dogs into a pen, Mrs. Fields said, the injured raccoon dragged itself away into the dark.
Mrs. Fields said she called both the police and the animal control agency but was told no one could respond to her house. "I was worried about that; this is a residential neighborhood and there are children around here," she said. Mrs. Fields said she bathed both dogs with disinfectant on the recommendation of the animal control agency.
Saturday morning, the Fieldses found the raccoon dead, and a county animal control unit took the carcass to test the brain for rabies.
The lab reported Monday afternoon yesterday that the raccoon had tested positive, and Mrs. Fields had her dogs examined and vaccinated yesterday morning. Thumper's "scraped nose" was the only visible injury either of the black standard poodles received in the fight.
Mrs. Fields said she is from Calgary, Alberta, where rabies is virtually unknown and domestic animals are not routinely vaccinated. The poodles, which she said are "extremely spoiled," are kept in the fenced yard and were not licensed because "our dogs are never loose."
Thumper had his puppy inoculation but did not get the necessary permanent booster shot, while Pooch's 1988 vaccination expired a year ago, she said.
Karen Stott, spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Health Department, said, "Pet owners have the responsibility to have their pets vaccinated, and it is state law." The county offers rabies vaccinations in the spring and fall at nominal cost at a dozen locations around the county.
Dr. Kim Hammond, owner of the Falls Road Animal Hospital, echoed the warning about the importance of rabies vaccinations, particularly because of the high number of cases among wild animals in urban areas and the danger of the disease being spread to domestic animals.
Baltimore County had 26 confirmed rabies cases through Oct. 31, including 18 raccoons, Ms. Stott said. The others involved four foxes, two cats, a bat and a groundhog.