The cost of quarantining an animal can be high. A recent extraordinary example is the reported $27,000 price tag for the quarantine of Bentley, the King Charles spaniel owned by Ebola-infected nurse Nina Pham. According to NBC, Dallas spent more than $155,000 on its overall response to the outbreak, including the $27,000 for Bentley. Reportedly, $19,000 was privately donated or granted to offset the cost of Bentley’s quarantine.
The city made the right decision by quarantining rather than euthanizing Bentley, but the excessive cost of similar quarantines could easily drain local resources. Preventing exposure, when possible, is highly desirable. This was not necessarily possible in Pham’s case, but anyone traveling back from an Ebola-infected area should consider waiting 21 days before re-uniting with their pet, to avoid any chance that their pet would be quarantined or worse.
The cost of animal disease outbreaks have been well-documented.
The 2003 Exotic Newcastle disease outbreak cost more than $160 million to fight, and resulted in the depopulation of more than 4 million birds. According to USDA, “this was the largest animal disease outbreak in the United States in 30 years.”
West Nile virus, a virus introduced in the western hemisphere in 1999, cost the equine industry millions of dollars. USDA reported on the cost of diagnosis, treatment, and lost revenues in response to WNV in horses in Colorado and Nebraska in 2002:
“The estimated total cost attributed to death or euthanasia of equine WNV cases in Colorado and Nebraska equaled $600,660.”
“The estimated revenue lost by owners in Colorado and Nebraska because of lost-use associated with WNV was $163,659.”
“The estimated cost attributed to the treatment of mild, moderate, and severe WNV cases in Colorado and Nebraska equaled $490,844.”
“Vaccination costs probably exceeded $2.75 million in Colorado and Nebraska.”
In addition to these large-scale animal disease outbreaks, local governments and pet owners pay for disease exposure or infection in pets. Suspected rabies-infected animals must be quarantined, or in a worst case scenario, tested for the disease. Such tests, performed on brain tissue, require euthanasia of the animal.
While States or local governments often pay for the actual testing in such situations, owners may be charged for some costs, depending on the individual circumstances. Even when pets have been properly vaccinated, owners may have to pay for additional post-exposure vaccination and the quarantine of their pets.
The quarantine protocols used for a rabies-exposed animal are not nearly as rigorous as those used for an Ebola-exposed animal, and the corresponding costs are exponentially smaller, thankfully.
Preventing infection in animals and people is always preferable-and it can help save money, but more importantly lives.