Dog's head sent for rabies testing lost in mail

Published: Nov. 21, 2017 at 4:32 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2017 at 8:06 PM CST
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SULPHUR SPRINGS, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas veterinary clinic says they're out of thousands of dollars and the health of their staff was put at risk after a package containing animal parts scheduled for rabies testing allegedly went missing.

Veterinarians at Bright Star Veterinary Clinic in Sulphur Springs said a resident recently brought in a dog showing symptoms of rabies.

During the consultation, one technician was bitten by the dog on her hand.

Since the dog's health was bad, the owner and the vet decided to euthanize it, so it could be tested for rabies immediately. The clinic staff began the process to test if the dog for rabies by getting a sample of brain tissue.

With prior experience in rabies testing, the staff removed the head of the dog to be shipped to the state lab in Austin. According to the CDC, brain tissue is preferred when testing for rabies in euthanized animals.

"It was wrapped with triple layers, then a cooler, and  with warning stickers,"said Dr. Leah Larson.

The clinic staff said they didn't get a phone call from the state with results within the normal 24-hour response window. After contacting the lab, the state told them that they had not received the head.

The window to get a vaccine after exposure is less than a week, according to the staff at Bright Star Veterinary Clinic.

Dr. Larson said she contacted UPS, but according to her she was offered no help to find the box.

"I told them I need help because  I had my employee." said Dr Larson. " I just don't think they understood the risk, the health risk."

With no time left, and with no possible idea where the box could be, the vet techs drove to a Dallas hospital for the rabies vaccines.

The cost to vaccinate all employees who handled the the brain tissue or the dog is about $80,000, said the clinic's office manager. Staff members exposed to saliva and brain tissue will receive those shots over the course of a month.

Staff members say they sent the dog's head to a local shipping company and the management has documents showing the tracking number.

As of now, the location of the box is still unknown, but Larson says if not kept in proper condition brain tissue dies within about two days.

KLTV reached out to UPS who says Larson used a local shipping company that is authorized by UPS. A label was generated but not scanned according to the spokesperson.  They also said  UPS p would not have accepted the package from the shipping business because of its content.

Larson said she believes the local shipping outlet who told her the package was picked up.

UPS also said when it comes to remains, the sender must contact UPS directly for agreement.
The spokesperson also said, during a phone interview, the company refunded her shipment fee back through the local shipping outlet.

Larson says she has not received any refund.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services did confirm that they never received a package from Bright Star Clinic.

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