Officials in Madrid said they plan to kill the dog of a Spanish woman who was infected with the Ebola virus, but a viral social media effort to save the animal is heating up. The mixed-breed dog, named Excalibur, belongs to Javier Limon Romero and Teresa Romero Ramos, both of whom are in quarantine after Ramos was diagnosed with the potentially fatal disease. The 44-year-old nursing assistant is thought to be the first person to contract Ebola outside West Africa.
As a precautionary measure, local health officials say they must euthanize Excalibur, citing evidence that dogs can get Ebola, and people can become infected by dogs. As the U.K. Express reported Tuesday, officials said they plan to seek a court order after they were denied permission by Excalibur’s owners to euthanize the dog. In a statement, officials said: “The only way of eliminating the existing risk of the transmission of the illness is by putting the animal which has been in contact with the virus to sleep.”
But animal lovers say Excalibur should be quarantined -- not killed -- and they’re not giving up the fight to save him. The hashtag campaign #SalvemosaExcalibur went viral on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday, with thousands of social media users rallying around the dog.
A petition to spare Excalibur -- launched by Carmen Sanchez Montañesgrew in Seville, Spain -- grew rapidly late Tuesday, and had attracted more than 300,000 signatures by Wednesday morning. “This is not ‘just’ a dog, for this couple he is one of the family," reads the petition statement. In the meantime, a number of supporters got their own pets involved in the campaign, posting pictures of their dogs posing alongside the #SalvemosaExcalibur hashtag.
â€” Ricardo Rios Lopez (@ricardo0202) October 8, 2014
Some campaign supporters say the issue goes beyond animal rights and in fact is a matter of keeping the regional Madrid government from overstepping its bounds. “Not just animal lovers are angry with this,” one Facebook user commented. “[M]any people think it’s a mistake and that the government is trying to show that they have some control of the situation, when they have none.”
Speaking to the Express on Tuesday, Romero said if health officials were truly worried about Excalibur spreading Ebola to humans, they should seek a better solution than killing him. “I think they should look for another type of alternative solution, such as putting the dog in quarantine and observation like they’ve done with me,” he told the Express. “Or perhaps they feel they should sacrifice me just in case.”