Dog Gets Rabies From Sanitation Worker

By Dodie Fingerton

Published November 24th, 2014

Muffy in 2013

COHOES —A shepherd-beagle mix named Muffy had to be euthanized on Thursday after contracting rabies from a Department of Public Works employee.

City Spokesperson Jarvis Fleming, said that trash collector Toby Hempstead got into an altercation with the canine earlier this month while picking up trash on his route.

Twelve-year-old Justin O'Connor, who was walking to school at the time, witnessed the attack.

“It wasn't the dog's fault,” said O'Connor. “It was tied up in its yard minding its own business when the garbage man started yelling at it and taunting it with an empty trash can.”

That's when Mr. Hempstead, who O' Connor said appeared to be foaming at the mouth, got too close to the fence and the dog bit him on the shoulder.

Animal Control immediately took the canine into custody and issued a citation to its owner. Hempstead, meanwhile, was rushed to Samaritan Hospital. He later tested positive for rabies.

At the time of the incident, veterinary records showed that Muffy was about a month overdue for her rabies and distemper vaccination. But oddly enough, when Animal Control had the dog tested, the results came back negative.

Fleming explained that since the normal incubation period for rabies is typically 2 to 12 weeks, it was important for Animal Control to continue to monitor Muffy's condition. And sure enough, after three weeks the dog had begun exhibiting symptoms consistent with the virus. It would later test positive.

“We knew then that it had been Muffy who had contracted the disease from Mr. Hempstead. Not the other way around,” Fleming said. “But unfortunately, under New York State law, any animal that tests positive for rabies must be euthanized within 24 hours.”

The news was little consolation to Muffy's owner, 7-year-old Ellory Gallagan.

“She was such a good dog. She loved people. She loved to get pet on her belly. Now she's in heaven. Why?”

Hempstead, meanwhile, is expected to make a full recovery.