NELSON Mandela Bay animal lovers are furious over the sudden death of Port Elizabeth’s bus-riding boerboel.
Outraged residents believe his death could have been avoided, if the illness had been picked up earlier.
The four-year-old boerboel had appeared healthy up until Monday morning when, according to the SPCA, he started looking lethargic and was taken to a vet.
Uitenhage SPCA chairwoman Christelle Erasmus said she had been in contact with the vet who told her earlier in the evening that "things looked about 50-50”.
"Later that night, sadly, we heard that the dog had passed away from biliary-related complications. We are all very sad about this,” she said.
"Tick bite fever has an incubation period of 10 to 15 days, and there wasn’t any way to tell whether the dog had been inoculated before. We tried everything, but he didn’t pull through.”
Erasmus said there was no chance the illness could spread to other animals at the Uitenhage offices, as the dogs and cats were kept confined to their individual kennels.
News of the dog’s death spread on social networking site Facebook yesterday morning – just days after a Sardinia Bay dog trainer, Donne Lucas, offered him a temporary home.
Realising the dog’s ingenuity for boarding a bus as something that made it special, she offered to keep him until a permanent home was found.
However, Erasmus said the SPCA’s policy did not allow for fostering.
"I feel like [the death] could have been avoided. A dog with biliary doesn’t just go down overnight like this. I don’t know why the animal wasn’t checked out properly when they received it, but I wish they had been more receptive to my offers to take him in,” Lucas said yesterday.
"I feel like this could be why they were being so cagey about me.”
Other animal lovers agreed.
Lesley Smitsdorff wrote on the Animal Welfare Port Elizabeth group’s wall: "I just want to know: how did they not pick it up? I am heart-broken, knowing that he was not treated earlier for it. My dog has had biliary, and I picked it up within a day or two. How could those people at the SPCA not see it and treat him?”
Ex-animal welfare volunteer Johanette Smith said: "The big problem with the SPCA is that they are not transparent. Nobody knows what goes on with those animals, what happens to the dogs. I get annoyed. They could have fostered the poor thing out.” Christell Nicholls wrote: "Where did he contract biliary? In their care. Funny. A healthy doggy for two weeks.”
But Port Elizabeth veterinarian Dr Charles Hayward said while the dog’s death was sad, it was not unusual.
"I haven’t handled the case, so I can’t say for certain, but we do get cases of something called galloping biliary, where a dog can literally become symptomatic, become extremely sick, and then critical, within a matter of hours.
"He could be fine this morning, without any signs whatsoever that something is wrong, and by this evening it turns out the sickness is acute and there’s very little that can be done to beat it back.”
Hayward said the disease’s incubation period was between 10 and 15 days, which meant the dog probably contracted it "before he even took his bus ride”.
"I know it’s very tragic, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that these are the institutions that need public support. This could honestly have been one of those very real, sad tragedies. We shouldn’t immediately write them off because of it,” he said.
The dog had been kept at the Uitenhage SPCA after hopping on to a bus in Bridgemead two weeks ago.