The Spanish nurse's aide who became the first Ebola victim to contract the virus outside of West Africa this week just saw the virus claim the life of her loved one. Madrid's regional government announced Tuesday that it would euthanize her dog, Excalibur, to avoid the spread of Ebola, and put down the dog Wednesday. The dog hadn't actually been tested for Ebola, but authorities believed euthanizing the couple's pet will be the best way to contain the disease.
Javier Limón Romero, the husband of Spanish Ebola patient Teresa Romero Ramos, posted a YouTube video from isolation pleading for officials to spare the life of the mixed-breed pooch. Animal lovers responded by holding a vigil outside of the couple's apartment in Madrid and creating a Change.org petition that gained over 350,000 signatures. The page says:
Not only is it unfair to be infected with Ebola by the sanitary assistant due to the lack of necessary means, they must also lose their dog as a result of a thoughtless decision, as it would be much easier to isolate or quarantine the dog just as they have the victim’s husband. If this woman were to die, the dog which has accompanied them for so many years would be an important emotional support for her husband. This is not "just" a dog, for this couple he is one of the family.
Limón Romero said he left Excalibur with 33 pounds of dog food, a bathtub full of water and access to the terrace to "do his business" while his owners are in isolation.
Many people have noted that the plight of one dog seems to have stirred more attention than the thousands dying in Africa. And yes, that is disturbing. We should treat Ebola as the terrible, awful disease that it is, which includes not making jokes about it.
But does that mean that it's okay for officials to put Excalibur down? The authorities hang their decision on the "scientific evidence" that says dogs can harbor the virus. And while that seems to be true, research suggests dogs don't seem to show symptoms of Ebola, which means they would be unlikely to spread it.
It's pretty flippant to not even find proper accommodations to quarantine the dog, much like the quarantine his owners are under right now. To kill an animal that might have a virus and might be able to spread it seems cruel — particularly after fierce protestations from his owners, who are struggling enough as it is.
So yes, it shouldn't take a single dog in Spain to get people riled up about finding a solution to the immense human suffering in West Africa. We need to be mindful and active in petitioning leaders to do more. But that doesn't mean that we can't simultaneously value the lives of animals and recognize that they, too, deserve respect.
Images: Getty Images (1), Facebook/Asociacion Protectora Villa Pepa (2)