WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Former Putnam county sanitarian Barbara Koblinsky won an appeal of her second wrongful termination case against the Putnam County Board of Health in July after several of her former coworkers came forward to say former Putnam health department administrators had planned to have her fired a second time.
In Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom's decision, it was noted that in the first wrongful termination grievance, Koblinsky had been reprimanded for allegedly failing to enforce the health department rabies control policy, which she opposed.
The policy, which is still in place, requires that animals that have bitten a person must be quarantined for 10 days in the Putnam County animal shelter or an approved veterinary office at the owner's expense. The policy is more stringent than the state standard, which allows animals to be quarantined at home, and Putnam County is the only county in the state that requires quarantines outside the home.
Joe Haynes, Putnam county commission president and former health board member, said the policy is controversial because it is much more strict, but the health department felt it was necessary to ensure citizens' safety.
"The board's feeling was that, No. 1, we didn't have enough employees to police something like that and make sure it was being done, and No. 2, we didn't feel like it was a very responsible thing to do, to allow someone to quarantine their pet at home," he said.
According to Miguella Mark-Carew, a zoonotic disease epidemiologist for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Public Health, the majority of rabies cases in animals the department documents are wild animals, primarily raccoons.
In 2012, 60 animals were determined positive for rabies through DHHR-administered tests; of those, 29 were raccoons. Only four domesticated animals -- two dogs and two cats -- were determined to have rabies.
"The number of domesticated animals remains pretty low consistently, but it's because of their interactions with wild animals that they're contracting rabies," Mark-Carew said.