Hero dog waits in quarantine as county accelerates vaccination efforts

~ Sussex County woman describes how dog saved her during attack by rabid bobcat ~

By Terry Harris

Anyone in the area surrounding Beaver Dam Road between Jerusalem Plank Road and Union Hill Road is being urged to exercise extreme caution and avoid stray or wild animals following the July 26 attack of a local woman by a rabid bobcat. 

Meanwhile, Kwovo, the dog that saved her, remains in quarantine at the Sussex County Animal Shelter as required by law, as he had not been vaccinated against rabies at the time of the encounter with the rabid bobcat.

This week, the Sussex County woman told her story.  Her name is being withheld at her request. 

“I was coming out of my house, putting some bottles of water in my car to take to work the next day,” she began. “I had set them in my car when I heard something making a sound like growling at me, and thought, ‘What in the world?’ and started stepping back.”

As the animal emerged from beneath the car, she said, it sounded like it was trying to attack her.

“So, I started kicking and hitting at him to keep him away. Then I started backing up and he started coming like he was trying to attack me. I was just kicking and screaming, and that’s when I fell down on my back. I looked over to the house and saw the dog on the porch and I yelled, ‘Get him, Kwovo!’  And he did.”

She said that the car door was still open, so she jumped inside to get away and closed the door.  Finally, when the bobcat was dead, she went inside the house and told her nephew what had happened.

“I was so scared I didn’t know what it was,” she said. “I went in the house and said a raccoon tried to get me! He went out and looked at it and said, ‘That’s not a raccoon. That’s a bobcat.’”

When asked about Kwovo’s normal temperament, she responded, “He’s a great dog. He protected me.”

The incident appears to be extremely unusual as an initial internet search for a rabid bobcat attacking a human shows up fewer than five times it has happened before, anywhere in the U.S. – ever.  For Kwovo, it was one time too many.  

Both he and the woman he saved have now had their first rabies shot, but due to his previous unvaccinated status he will be required by law to remain in strict quarantine under observation for up to six months, at the discretion of the Health Department, awaiting possible signs of rabies.

As for the woman he protected, while she undergoes the series of required vaccinations, she also has to watch for signs of a rabies infection.

A week after the incident, Dr. Dale L. Cupp, DVM, of Cabin Point Veterinary Hospital, responded between surgeries to questions concerning the situation.

When asked how dangerous rabies is to humans, he replied, “Well it’s 100 percent death for humans that are exposed or bitten by rabid animals if they don’t get the treatment. I’ve been through it before. It’s not a thing you want to deal with.”

He went on to explain that few people realize that it’s not only dogs and cats that need to be immunized against rabies.

“I had a rabid horse here about 8 – 10 years ago, and horses need it probably more than any others because they’re outside 24 hours a day in pastures,” he said. “We had to euthanize the horse. He was tearing up everything around him and I knew he was rabid even before the test.”

“A lot of people don’t realize that hunting dogs are more susceptible than regular domesticated dogs, because they are exposed all the time to animals that are more likely going to get rabies,” he continued.

“Too often, people don’t realize that getting their animals vaccinated against rabies is even more important for protecting themselves and the people they love,” he added. “And if you love that dog or cat, the vaccination is not that expensive, so I can’t see why anybody would not get their pets vaccinated – or even the hunting dogs.”

To alleviate cost concerns, Sussex County is in the process of setting up special clinics to provide low-cost or free vaccinations for local citizens. Director of Sussex Animal Services Debbie Broughton has advised that Sussex Animal Control, Administration, and the Health Department are working together to get the word out about the clinics, which will be widely advertised when finalized. 

In the meantime, she said, “We are in the process of setting up the rabies clinics and will be scouring the county for unvaccinated animals or animals with out-of-date boosters.  Anyone is welcome to use their own vets or the clinics, but they must have proof of current vaccinations, or we will be writing summonses.”

As for Kwovo, “He is a big, sweet dog,” Officer Broughton said, “and they just love him so much!  He’s a good boy that was just trying to protect his family. He saved her from a lot more injuries.”

After visiting him in his quarantine pen, the woman he saved said that he was happy to see her, adding, “I think everybody that owns a dog should get them vaccinated. I urge them to go and get their cats, dogs, whatever vaccinated.”

She paused a minute, then added, “I wish I had never been outside to put that water in the car.”