Man Had to Decapitate His Dog Because of Rabies, But Was it the Right Call?

A Georgia man was forced to decapitate his dog for rabies testing, but state officials say it might have been unnecessary. Leonhard Foeger

A Georgia man has said he was forced to cut off his dog's head after a sheriff deputy in Crawford County, Georgia, shot the animal. Joe Nate Goodwin told The Telegraph, a newspaper based in Macon, Georgia, that the procedure was to test for rabies as the dog had bitten a neighbor.

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According to the paper, a sheriff's deputy went to his home after his pet bit someone in the neighborhood. When the dog ran toward the deputy, he responded by shooting the dog. Although Goodwin wasn't home during the incident, his girlfriend called to tell him "Big Boy has been shot," he told the paper.

When the owner got home, he found the animal dead in the yard. The experience with the sheriff's deputy was cordial, he said, until an investigator, James Hollis, came to his house and asked about the dog's vaccinations. At this point, the discussion about decapitating the dog in order to test for rabies occured.

According to a second report in The Telegraph, Hollis said he called the Crawford County Health Department, who reportedly advised either the dog owner or a vet would have to perform the beheading.

Goodwin, shocked at being asked to remove his dog's head, then began to film the conversation for evidence. The paper describes parts of the conversation in the tapes.

"You can sit there all you want and try to record all you want to record," Hollis said at one point. Goodwin responded by saying, "I'm protecting myself. Y'all come up to me... I'm reacting to having to cut my fucking dog's head off."

"We asked you to cut... to remove the dog's head," Hollis said. "And you're refusing, right?"

The paper reported that at one point, the deputy chimed in, saying, "If you would just listen" and "We don't know this process either."

Goodwin told the paper that the officials said he could pay a vet to do the procedure, though he didn't have the money because of the holidays.


Be or visit for consultarion and appointment. #rabiescankill #rabiesawarenessmonth #rabies

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According to the second story by The Telegraph, the situation did not follow the state's protocol for dealing with animals suspected of carrying rabies. Nancy Nydam of the Georgia Department of Public Health told the paper that a veterinarian or animal control officer should perform the decapitation in order to make sure the sample is viable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it's important to maintain the brain's integrity so a lab can recognize its parts.

Plus, there's the matter of safety. "That person [who cuts off the head] should have pre-exposure rabies vaccine," she told the paper.

Richard Craft of the state health department told the paper that they do have a statewide procedure that should be followed to test rabies, and that law enforcement receives training from their local health departments. But sometimes lack of communication might cause confusion.

"But those rural counties, they have to rely on their own staff and getting the information out correctly," he told the paper.

Staff at Hollis' office confirmed to The Telegraph that an investigation into the event was ongoing.