In the case of a man who alleges he decapitated his dog after being told to by a Crawford County sheriff’s deputy, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s protocol for dealing with animals suspected to have rabies was ignored.
The beheading should have been performed by either a veterinarian or a trained animal control officer, “not only to provide a good specimen, but also for the protection of the person who removes the head,” Georgia Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said in an email to The Telegraph on Tuesday. “That person should have pre-exposure rabies vaccine.”
Joe Nate Goodwin told The Telegraph he was ordered by investigator James Hollis to remove the head of his 2-year-old pit bull mix, Big Boy, who had been shot twice and killed after it reportedly lunged at a deputy.
Just before 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, Kandice Rose Bangs, of California, had been bitten on the back of the leg by Big Boy. The 46-year-old was at the house across the street from Goodwin’s, rolling a trash bin down the driveway, when the dog reportedly attacked, according to Crawford County Deputy Wesley Neesmith’s write-up of the incident.
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Bangs, in town visiting a friend, was taken to a Peach County hospital where she was treated for puncture wounds.
After the ambulance left, Neesmith spotted Big Boy running toward a different neighbor who was at the end of their driveway.
“I drew my weapon and started hollering at the dog in order for it to leave the area,” Neesmith wrote.
When Neesmith pulled up at the Goodwin’s house a short time later, Big Boy disregarded orders to stop and “ran toward me barking and growling,” the report said.
Neesmith fired two shots at Big Boy. The dog died, collapsing at the end of Goodwin’s driveway.
Goodwin came home from work after Neesmith called him to tell him what happened. Goodwin seemed understanding, telling Neesmith he had to do what he had to do, the report said.
It wasn’t long before investigator James Hollis pulled up, got out of his patrol car and called a woman with the Crawford County Health Department, the report said.
Hollis turned his phone on speaker setting, so that Goodwin could hear instructions given by a woman identified only as “Ms. Sims.”
She “stated that either the owner of the dog needed to cut the head off of the dog or take it to a vet and have them do it in order to have the dog tested for rabies,” the report said. “After Ms. Sims stated that Mr. Goodwin had to cut the head off of the dog, he became irate and started yelling and cussing.”
Goodwin started recording video of the encounter on his phone. In one video, Hollis moved toward Goodwin, pointing a finger at him and, shouting “you’re not fixing to talk to me or my deputies like that.”
At one point, Neesmith wrote in the report, Hollis “grabbed Mr. Goodwin by the shirt and spun him around.”
Several short videos Goodwin took during the encounter were posted online, where they were shared and viewed tens of thousands of times.
Sheriff Lewis Walker did not return messages left by Telegraph reporters Monday.
In a news release late Monday evening, though, Walker stated that the county health department had been “notified and the owner of the dog was advised, by that agency, of the state rabies testing requirements and options regarding the dog.”
Richard Craft, who works for state health department’s environmental division in downtown Macon, said Tuesday that Big Boy’s head was being tested for rabies in a lab in Decatur.
Though there’s a statewide protocol for testing deceased animals for rabies, most law enforcement gets training and information from the local health department, Craft said.
“In different counties, it’s handled in slightly different ways,” said Craft, who noted Bibb County animal welfare has a program that works with veterinarians. “But those rural counties, they have to rely on their own staff and getting the information out correctly.”
If someone had to behead an animal themselves as a last resort, Craft said, they should “at least wear the proper protective equipment” including gloves, an apron and eye protection to limit possible exposure.