CDC Tests Shows District Dog Did Not Die of Rabies

DOH Spokesperson Says Cause of Death is Still Undetermined

DogMa founder Rebecca Bisgyer at DogMa in 2012 with unknown friends. Photo Courtesy DogMa.

A family experienced a terrible loss this month when their one and a half year-old bulldog died of unknown causes on July 20. Jasmine Gossett, a spokesperson for the District Department of Health (DOH) said initial tests by DOH indicated that he had died of rabies, but a later test by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) determined that the dog passed due to other causes.

 “The dog was not euthanized but died of yet unknown causes,” Gossett said.

The dog was named Fred and was a boarder at DogMa, a dog daycare and boarding center that features the District's only outdoor daycare space for dogs. He had been a boarding client from July 14 to 17, a period during which he was initially thought to have been contagious.

Fred was fully up-to-date with his vaccinations, including that for rabies and had submitted proof as required before becoming a boarder. DogMa manager Beth Aldrich said the reports that Fred had possibly died of rabies were saddening for the DogMa community, but were also alarming. “Everyone was worried. It was really scary to have a vaccinated dog come up with any disease, especially rabies.” Before the CDC results, DOH had reached out to the makers of the vaccine to investigate.

Rabies is a viral disease of mammals usually transmitted through bites of a rabid animal, and usually occurs in wild animals such as raccoons, skunks or bats. Dogs that were present at DogMa had been instructed to get another rabies vaccine or booster as soon as possible, and Wallach said that there was nearly 100 percent compliance in the first forty-eight hours after the DOH gave the instruction.

Aldrich said DOH complimented the business for their hygienic standards and their recordkeeping. DogMa yards and spaces are cleaned and bleached several times a day. “We were able to provide vaccination records for all the dogs that were present on the days that Fred was last here,” Aldrich added.

Aldrich said that there had been an outpouring of support for DogMa and DogMa customers, or ‘Pack Parents’. She said that now that everyone was certain that there was no potential for rabies transmission, they were able to relax a bit and try to resume normal life.

Aldrich said that the DogMa's community sent their condolences out to Fred’s family, and that they had all been affected by his loss. “We’ve all been really sad, and feel really sad for Fred’s family. Any loss of a dog is really hard,” she said.

 “Fred was a really good boy. He was always super social, and ready to play at DogMa.”