CITY OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH.
Last year there were sent to the New York City Health Department Laboratories 888 animals to be examined for rabies. Of this number, 462 proved to be rabid — an increase of 377 over the year 1925. Of these 462 mad animals, 128 were classed as stray dogs, since they had no marks of identification on them and no one claimed them. Of the 334 with owners, a number of them were running amuck when they first showed symptoms of rabies; others were known to have been bitten by stray dogs.
It is interesting to note that the majority of these strays were found nearer the outskirts of the city than near the centers. This fact, however, is not proof that the dogs came from the country outside of the city, since dogs have been known to run many miles in their beginning periods of excitation when the rabies virus starts to act. Just recently, a dog whose owner lived in the lower East Side was found running mad on Amsterdam Avenue — several miles away.
Our records show that a single rabid dog bit as many an 6 to 9 people and 3 to 5 dogs. Of course the number of dogs bitten is often difficult to determine.
While I am sure that we all must realize that there are many excellent reasons and this last supreme good reason for having no stray dogs, still as we are continuing to have them, it must be that either we dont know how to get rid of them or that we are neglecting a civic duty.
Perhaps if we search for the chief reason why we have stray dogs, it may help us devise a practicable plan for getting rid of them. The chief reason is simply that the individual responsibility of certain dog owners is not well developed. These owners think that the dog can take care of himself and that he has a right to roam at large whether he disturbs other citizens rights or not.
So long as we have strays everyone should remember that no unauthorized individual should pick up a stray animal without realizing fully the risk he is running. He should at least have his hands well protected by heavy gloves and other parts of his body, such as, the ankles, equally well protected. He should not allow his skin to be licked by such animal, at least until it has been quarantined under observation sufficiently long to rule out infection by the rabies virus.
In the rabies records of the Department Laboratories we get, again and again, histories that teach us to handle strays with caution. Some examples follow:.
A woman dog lover saw a little poodle running on a street of our city. She caught it, fondled it and carried it home. On the way it bit her hand twice, once drawing blood. At home her sister also petted it and was also bitten. That night the dog became definitely sick and within two days died in convulsions. The examination of the animal showed that it had been suffering from rabies.
Again, recently, another animal lover, this time a man — while walking in one of the citys parks, saw a little kitten that seemed sick. He picked it up and carried it home, notwithstanding the fact that it bit and scratched him. The kitten soon showed signs of paralysis, and it died completely paralyzed in three days. The examination showed that it had been suffering from rabies.
This brings up the point of the comparative danger from cats and dogs. As compared to dogs, cats are of little danger in disseminating rabies. The reason is that cats when infected by the rabies virus commonly develop what we call paralytic rabies, that is, they do not run wild and bite, but become quickly weak and then paralyzed and simply lie down and die. When, as infrequently happens, the cat does develop the furious form of rabies, it may become exceedingly dangerous because of its scratching as well as biting.
These histories and many others much more tragic, when savage dogs and savage mad dogs at large have bitten horribly one person or many, make us urge our plea to get rid of stray dogs. We cannot reiterate too often that if stray dogs vanish, with them would vanish not only the fear of the savage dog, danger to our gardens, and the nastiness of the uncontrolled dog about our doorsteps, but –and far more important– we would get rid of the fear of rabies and rid also of the necessity of the only preventive we have –the Pasteur Institutes, with their vaccinations of both man and dog.
Our plea is first to dog owners to comply with the regulations of the Sanitary Code which reads as follows:.
“No unmuzzled dog shall be permitted at any time to be on any public highway or in any public part or place in the City of New York.” Furthermore, we are of the opinion that all dogs in thickly populated districts should be on short leashes.