UPDATE: IT'S OVER
After the public pressure our Change.org petition generated, Cook County Animal Control relented and let our definitely-not-rabid cat go home to recuperate from her traumatic experience. She'll be examined at the 10-day mark to make sure she's clean and to get her shots updated.
Dr. Donna Alexander also clarified and made explicit an unwritten practice that does not appear in the Cook County rabies response code — any animal that needs to have an in-home quarantine for special medical reasons, may do so at the discretion of the veterinarian and Animal Control, providing that the animal is inspected at the 5- and 10-day milestones by their vet.
Thanks everyone for your support. Please also check out the low-cost rabies vaccination clinics that Dr. Alexander runs on a regular basis. You can find information at:
UPDATE: PRIS IS HOME!
Thanks to everyone for your support and your phone calls to Cook County Animal Control. After a bit of back-and-forth, we were able to secure the release of Pris this morning for her medical well-being. You did that! We can't thank you enough. We never expected to see the international response we've gotten so far.
It's a travesty that this was so difficult, so we want to get the standards and practices changed in Cook County. Many jurisdictions allow for at-home observation when there is no serious risk of rabies infection. So please — keep calling Donna Alexander to show your support for changing the standards in Cook County so that another pet owner never has to go through this unnecessarily ever again! There hasn't been a rabid cat or dog in Cook County for over a decade, and it's time our practices reflect that in these obvious cases of long-term harm to the observed animal. Tell them you support Pris, and that the standards need to be changed! (708) 974-6140
Thanks again everyone! You have made a huge difference for our precious cat! Please know that when public pressure is placed on rigid bureaucracy, you can make a difference!
Jason, Jenny, Pris, and Zhora Gallagher
Here’s an update. I finally got a call back from Dr. Donna Alexander at Cook County Animal Control. She was unwilling to make an exception, and her reasoning was a bit surprising.
According to her, there is a serious risk that a small, brown bat has infiltrated my third-floor walkup in downtown Chicago, which Pris then mistook for a mouse, ate, and became infected with rabies — you know, despite showing zero signs of rabies and the odds of that insane confluence of events being so vanishingly small that we’d be more likely to hit the Powerball.
Please call her and let her know how unreasonable her logic is. Other states allow for at-home observation. She can approve this exception. (708) 974-6140.
Hi everyone. This is Pris (rhymes with Chris). Pris is currently suffering needlessly, and may die, as the result of Cook County’s inability to mobilize any sort of reasonable response to inquiry. Please read our story and help us.
My wife and I drove over 1,000 miles round trip to pick up these two girls over 4 years ago. They were two feral kittens, who were trapped by my wife’s mother. We crated them up, drove them home to Chicago, and spent a year of our lives attempting to socialize them to the point where they trust us.
And they do. But they trust only us, which makes a lot of practical things difficult. They hide when we have company. They panic frequently. I’m a tall man, and sometimes even my regular walking around the house makes them nervous on one of their worse days. But we love them. They snuggle with us at night, and mostly behave like normal cats — presuming my wife and I are the only two people around.
Zhora has been to the vet many times, due to chronic food allergy issues. Her condition gives her a very small stature that makes her easier to handle. Her sister Pris, however, hasn’t been to the vet since she got spayed and vaccinated as a kitten. She is difficult to corral, and her hiding behavior told us that she was not going to handle a vet visit with any sort of grace.
She is an indoor cat, we have no other pets aside from her sister, and the last time she was outside of our apartment building was the day she got spayed and vaccinated. We decided to defer until there was a clear need.
When Pris was first let out of her cat crate in the examination room, she had a panic attack. She ran. She knocked over everything in the office that could be knocked over, tried to climb the walls to get away — in short, about what we expected. The veterinary technician attending witnessed all of this and seemed surprised by Pris’ fear reaction.
The veterinarian checked her out subsequently, and her handling behavior seemed to go over much better with Pris. Our kitty was scared, but cooperated with the examination. The doctor decided that she needed to take Pris to an alternate operating room where she and her staff could get a biological sample of some kind.
This is when everything changed.
After a few minutes, the vet returned. She informed us that one of her assisting vet techs had not exercised appropriate caution when handling our scared pet, and that Pris nipped her in a panicked attempt to try and escape. Everyone was relatively unharmed — but the law says that Pris has to undergo ten (10) days of quarantined observation to ensure that she hasn’t contracted rabies.
I know she’s not rabid. My wife knows. Her vets know. There hasn’t been a case of rabies in a cat or dog in Cook County in almost two decades. This would normally be fine. She is in no danger of exhibiting any symptoms, and thus most pets would go the ten days in the observation cage, and go home with no problem.
But Pris isn’t like most cats.
She is still scared. She is in an unfamiliar environment, away from her family. She will not go to the bathroom. She will not eat for the vet staff. She has only had a few bites of food, administered by my wife and I, after giving her an appetite stimulant.
It’s been days now. She is slowly dying. She is weak. Currently, her vets believe that even if she lives, she is in serious danger of long-term organ damage.
North Center Animal Hospital called Cook County to see if they could make an exception to the observation rule, to allow for home observation with a vet visit at the end of the ten days. This practice is standard in many states.
Cook County Animal Control declined, despite the fact that it is the opinion of trained veterinary professionals that our pet poses no threat to anyone, and that her well-being is in danger by continuing to be boarded at their hospital.
The animal hospital tried to go to the next level, by calling Dr. Donna Alexander, the Cook Country Administrative Veterinarian. At the time of this writing (September 27, 2013), four days have passed and nobody has heard from her. I have called her as well. Apparently, she only exists as a voicemail greeting.
We will not allow our pet to suffer needlessly and die at the hands of an inefficient bureaucracy. This is state-sponsored animal cruelty.
What do we want from you?
If you are moved by our story, please call the office of Dr. Donna Alexander and let her know that there needs to be a response to this issue. Let Cook County Animal Control that this issue is not going away for them. We will take this to all corners of the Internet. We will take it to the MSM. We will not rest until our cat is safely home and able to be cared for properly.
Call Cook County Animal Control (708) 974-6140 and ask for Dr. Donna Alexander. Let her know she needs to respond and that you are going to spread this story of government inefficiency and ridiculous inability to exercise discretion when there is a life in jeopardy.
Call North Center Animal Hospital and let them know you support their efforts to obtain an exception for our extreme case. It is hard work when you are being stonewalled by a government agency. Call them at (773) 327-5050 and let them know they need to keep working to make this a reality.