Quarantined dog released to owner

Russell the terrier mix and Susan Garrett
July 15, 2011 4:14:07 PM PDT
Russell, the terrier mix, is free!

His owner, Susan Garrett, picked him up Friday.

For the last four months, Russell has been at a veterinarian clinic since Orange County authorities ordered him to be quarantined for up to six months.

The ordeal started over a rabid raccoon that was in Russell's yard. Garrett heard him barking at the sick animal and put Russell inside the house immediately.

"I didn't think he was exposed," she said. "I didn't know that barking at a rabid raccoon could get you six months, you know in the slammer."

Under state law, authorities ordered Russell to the 6-month quarantine because he was overdue for his rabies vaccination by 46 days when the possible exposure occurred.

During Russell's four months of confinement, his health deteriorated so much Garrett took her battle to court to fight to move Russell from vet quarantine to home quarantine.

Russell's vet even wrote letters stating her concern about his well-being due to his confinement. She believes the dog had immunity at the time he was quarantined because of his previous history of vaccinations.

However, Orange County Attorney Annette Moore argued Russell could be a threat to his family at home.

"In this case, when the threat to health and safety including Ms. Garrett and her family is at question, we error on the side of [caution]," Moore said.

But the judge had concerns.

"Dogs are people too," Judge Lunsford Long said. "They have feelings, they have rights, [and] they have lives. This little dog is, just in my humble judgment, not really a risk to anybody and the mother wants to assume the risk of having the dog in her home. And if she can protect her family and third parties, and you all can find a way to do that then why not do it."

When the two sides couldn't reach an agreement, the judge took a day to think about it and ordered Russell to be released and spend his last two months of quarantine at home.

In the order, he wrote Garrett proved Russell has suffered and continues to suffer irreparable harm while being quarantined. Garrett says she is overjoyed with the judge's ruling and couldn't be happier to finally bring her dog home.

Moore released a statement saying," We were surprised and concerned the judge substituted his judgment for that of the Public Health Director considering the circumstances surrounding this case. Mainly, the confirmed case of rabies, the dog outside for three hours intermittently unsupervised by its owner, the acknowledged close contact by the owner of the dog to the rabid animal, a child in the home and a dog with a lapsed vaccination. We continue to be concerned about the risk of rabies exposure to the community, and in particular, to Russell's immediate family."

Moore says Orange County is considering its option of taking action prior to the hearing on July 25.

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