WINFIELD, W.Va. -- The Putnam County Health Department has abolished its controversial rabies policy in favor of adopting the state's own policy, which will allow Putnam County residents to quarantine pets involved in biting incidents in their homes.
Also Monday, health board members were told that the Putnam health department -- which has been under the guidance of Kanawha-Charleston health officials in recent months -- would move into a new permanent facility next month.
The old rabies policy, which states that animals involved in a biting incident must be quarantined at the Putnam County animal shelter or at a veterinary clinic at the owner's expense, was abandoned for the state standard that's used in Kanawha County and other counties across the state.
The document outlining the old policy, which is from 2009, also includes a clause stating that if a dog, cat or ferret responsible for the bite has no known owner, then the health officer should order that it be put down immediately.
If the animal appears to have an owner, a short waiting period would be allowed for an owner to claim the animal.
The policy also says that incidents involving severe bites to the head, neck, hands or face or involving animals with a history of biting are grounds for euthanasia pending a health department review.
Rahul Gupta, health officer and executive director for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said changing the policy was important in order to promote trust between Putnam's health department and Putnam County residents.
"We depend a lot on the community as our partner, not as the opposing agent," Gupta said. "We need a working partnership so that they don't feel a burden or a hesitance to come to us. We need to work with them, not against them."
According to Anita Ray, director of environmental health for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, the Putnam agency will need to work to make sure county residents understand the change in policy.
"We need to educate the public that we don't want their animal, we just want them confined and to verify that they're still in good health," she said.