LUMBERTON — A Lumberton councilman says he is disappointed that a fox suspected of being rabid was not sent to a state lab for testing to confirm that the animal was infected.
“This case was not handled properly,” said Erich Hackney, who represents Precinct 8 and is also an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office. “I hope in the future we will all learn from it so somebody doesn’t have to suffer through rabies vaccinations or worse, particularly if it’s a small child.”
Hackney shot and killed the animal when he responded to a call at about 6 p.m. Tuesday about a fox in a yard on Fuller Avenue in the Tanglewood community that was aggressively approaching children and foaming at the mouth. Hackney said when he arrived, the fox was lying under a bush and appeared to be dead.
“The fox lifted his head, and as soon as it saw me it charged me,” he said. “If I hadn’t hit him, there’s no doubt in my mind he would have attacked me.”
Hackney said that the fox, which had also been spotted at Food Lion on Roberts Avenue earlier that day, was bagged and taken to Southeastern Veterinary Hospital, where he thought it would be prepared for testing by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Marilyn Duda, who answered a Lumberton police officer’s call about the fox on the clinic’s emergency phone that night, said the clinic was asked to dispose of the carcass.
“There’s no need to test it for rabies if there’s never been any contact with it,” she said. ‘They wanted us to dispose of it, and so we did like we would have any animal that has been euthanized.”
Dr. Curt Locklear, owner of the clinic, said that in the past, the state has not tested animals that have not bitten or scratched anyone. In this case, the state was willing to test the animal, but the animal had already been put in the freezer to await disposal, he said.
“To get an accurate response on a test, they don’t want the brain cells frozen,” Locklear said.
According to Locklear, there have been 50 cases of rabies in North Carolina this year, most of which have been bats. In May, a cat in Cumberland County was found to be rabid.