The Washington State Department of Health (WADOH) Public Health Laboratories (PHL) processes hundreds of animal specimens each year for rabies testing. These specimens include bats, squirrels, cats, dogs, ferrets and other mammals. Although most specimens in Washington test negative for rabies, suspected rabies exposures are a notifiable condition and resources are put into rabies testing. (WADOH, 2017). The process of capturing, euthanizing, transporting and shipping an animal to the Department of Health for rabies testing is not uniform between the 35 local health jurisdictions (LHJs) in Washington State. When a citizen is exposed to a potentially rabid mammal (defined by the WADOH criteria), they are instructed by the LHJ in their county of residence on how to capture, transport, and euthanize the bat or other animal. There is currently a lack of consistency between recommendations given by LHJs in Washington State for these processes. The Washington State Department of Health sought to understand the animal euthanasia protocols for rabies submission and needed resources for the 35 local health jurisdictions within Washington. To do this, telephone surveys were conducted from May – August 2017 to better understand the current recommendations and protocols for euthanasia of animals for rabies testing within each county. The goals of the assessment survey were to understand what resources would be helpful in creating a standard state protocol for humane animal euthanasia and what barriers were present. After administration, the results were summarized and a plan for future direction of bat euthanasia was created and presented at the Washington State Zoonotic Disease Conference in Ellensburg, WA in September 2017.
Next steps of this project include further connection of LHJs with local veterinarians, wildlife rehab clinics, and other third parties that are available to euthanize potentially rabid animals for rabies testing at Washington State Laboratory in Shoreline. Alternatively, releasing controlled substances to LHJ staff could allow humane euthanasia by LHJ staff in areas where veterinarian resources are limited.