A heartbroken grandmother was forced to put down her family’s five dogs after becoming the first person in the UK to be diagnosed with a rare animal-borne disease.
Wendy Hayes, 61, was left with no choice but to euthanise her beloved pooches after they contracted Brucella canis from a Belarusian rescue dog she was fostering.
The infected dog, Moosha, had only been with Wendy for three days before she started aborting her puppies all over the home in a “horrific” experience that lasted 17 hours.
Wendy, from Stoke-on-Trent was initially put on a “stay at home” notice due to a fear of rabies – but both her and the dog were eventually diagnosed with the rare disease two months later.
Human transmission of the disease is rare but after the grandmother-of-two starting showing severe symptoms she was tested and remains on antibiotics.
In hospital Wendy suffered a high temperature, chills, and shivers, bad shakes, severe headaches, severe back ache and low blood pressure. Because she was immune-compromised the disease hit her harder than it would do for most.
Sadly she had had to say goodbye to her Jack Russell Benson, 13, Patterdale Cross Dougie, 11, pug named Tiny, 4, and an unknown breed pooch named Max, 9, after the couldn’t be saved.
Wendy and her family have been left devastated by the whole ordeal.
She said: “It felt so unreal, to think about how many people are in the UK, to think that this is the first ever for this type of strain. The doctors were actually quite excited.”
Wendy, who is married and has a son and two grandkids, said she most likely contracted the disease through Moosha’s birthing fluids and the rescue dog had to be put down.
She added: “All five dogs were put down, they were the innocent party in this. I blame this rescue, and I blame the government for letting it happen and not testing.
“The impact is devastating. The life went out of the house, it didn’t feel like home. There was a feeling of guilt as it was my choice to bring her into the house. It didn’t feel like a home.”
Wendy brought Moosha, a German Shepherd cross, over through a rescue dog company which sources strays from Ukraine and Belarus.
The grandmother said she “went into shock” after realising what she would have to do to the family dogs.
“You still feel guilt,” she said.
“I had read enough of the infection at this point. I knew that I’d have to do to our dogs.
“I just went into shock, I was sobbing. There was no real choice, there was no real quality of life for them. Benson, Douggie and Max (another foster dog) were positive while Tiny had tested negative but was at a high risk of positive.
“It’s heart breaking to have one dog put down, let alone do it three times over. How do you get over that?”
Wendy said the foster company needed to take more responsibility for testing.
She added: “The company I foster through brought dogs over from Belarus and Ukraine. Two vans brought dogs in from there.
“Within two days of them arriving all the dogs from the Ukraine van had been taken by animal control. We were told it was a paper work issue. Then the story went on and that it was to do with the rabies laws.
“I had Moosha for three days, she came on 20 March before she started aborting her puppies, which was pretty horrific.
“She was literally walking around the house dropping her puppies, there was blood all over the house.
“I managed to get a hold of two of them. Tried to bring it around but it was dead. That is probably when I contracted the disease.
“It was 1am and she woke me up. This went on until half past six at night. I was scrubbing everything, it was a nightmare.
“‘Don’t worry, they’re not like humans, they’re very clean.’ That was from the lady who runs the rescue.
“Two weeks after she lost the pups, trading standards sent me a 21 day notice. It meant she couldn’t leave, she had to stay in my property.
“She lived in my home until the 13 May. I only really felt something was up after I got back from visiting her.”
Moosha was still not known to be carrying the disease at this point, and it only emerged when Wendy sought medical help after becoming ill.
Wendy added: “I went into hospital on the 23 May. I went to my GP because I felt quite poorly and he sent me straight up to the hospital that day.
“I hadn’t been feeling well before that, but I put it down to stress after Moosha was taken.
“I was moved to the infectious disease ward at Stoke hospital. I didn’t get a diagnosis until Friday because they had a very clued-up doctor, who suggested it was Brucella canis.
“Even though I felt ill, you don’t stop worrying about the dogs.
“I was already in isolation, in infectious diseases you can’t leave your room. It was a tough time, there was no one to talk to.
“They let me out the following Thursday, 2 June but I had the nurses coming out to me for two and a half weeks giving me five lots of anti-biotics.
“I am still on two tablets for another three or four weeks.
“It affected my husband and my son. There were so few people, as no one understood the disease.
“I couldn’t have the grandchildren over because of the risk of the bacteria.
“They need to stop messing about and just do something. Make it compulsory for all zoonotic diseases. They boast about being rabies free for years. It’s just around the corner waiting to happen.
“We need testing for it. And we need to come down hard on those bad rescues.”