September 25, 2022

Wendy Hayes was hospitalised for almost two weeks

A woman was forced to put down her five family dogs after becoming the first person in the UK to be diagnosed with a rare infectious disease.

Wendy Hayes was left with no choice but to euthanise her beloved pets after they contracted Brucella canis from a Belarusian rescue dog she was fostering.

The infected dog Moosha had only been with the 61-year-old for three days before she started aborting her puppies all over the home in a “horrific” experience that lasted 17 hours.

She 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 is extremely rare but the grandmother-of-two also started showing severe symptoms and remains on antibiotics.

But her pooches Benson, a 13-year-old Jack Russell, Dougie, an 11-year-old Patterdale Cross, Tiny, a four-year-old Pug, and unknown breed, Max, nine, could not be saved – leaving Wendy and the family distraught.

Wendy 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 was then faced with the heart-breaking reality that she would have to put her own four dogs down due to them living in such close contact.

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“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 said she brought Moosha, believed to be a German Shepherd cross, over through a rescue dog company, which mainly sources stray dogs from Ukraine and Belarus.

Once dogs test positive for Brucella Canis they are infected for life. It is mainly transmitted through a dog’s bodily fluids, such as urine, blood and saliva, and in extremely rare cases can be passed on to humans.

Wendy, from Stoke-on-Trent, said she had no option but to have her dogs put down: “You still feel guilt. 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.

“The company I foster through brought dogs over from Belarus and Ukraine. Two vans brought dogs in from there.

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“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.”

Wendy said the drama lasted from 1am until 630pm: “I was scrubbing everything, it was a nightmare.”

While the rescue centre told Wendy not to worry, two weeks later she was sent a 21 day notice, meaning Moosha couldn’t leave.

Moosha left Wendy’s property on May 13, and it was only when she got back from visiting the dog that Wendy realised something “was up”.

Moosha was still not known to be carrying the disease at this point, and it only emerged when Wendy sought medical help after feeling unwell.

Wendy went to her GP on May 23 and was sent straight to Stoke hospital where she was moved to the infectious disease ward. Wendy didn’t return home until June 2, and even then had nurses visiting her for two and half weeks.

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.

She added: “I am still on two tablets for another three or four weeks.

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“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.”

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