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GI man bit, scratched by feral cat says Central Nebraska Humane Society didn’t do its job

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 7:48 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - A Grand Island man is undergoing rabies vaccinations after a feral cat bit and scratched him, but said the situation could’ve been better if the Central Nebraska Humane Society did what it’s suppose to.

Dennis Stoltenberg had more than 50 puncture wounds after an attack by a feral cat, which happened on his property last week. His wife had to pry the cat’s mouth open, because it wouldn’t let go of Stoltenberg’s hand.

The cat was injured during the struggle. Stoltenberg said they put it down with a shot to the head.

According to a report by the Hall County Sheriff’s Department, a deputy arrived on the property July 15. Stoltenberg said the deputy helped clean his wounds, and highly suggested he go to the hospital.

In the report’s narrative, the deputy stated “the bite investigation was handled by Animal Control Officer Isabelle.”

Hall County Sheriff's Department narrative  of feral cat incident involving Dennis Stoltenberg.
Hall County Sheriff's Department narrative of feral cat incident involving Dennis Stoltenberg.(KSNB)

Stoltenberg said the Animal Control Officer took the cat. She told him it was going to be sent to the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center in Lincoln to be tested for rabies.

Stoltenberg went to the hospital, where his wounds were individually cleaned. Doctors took an x-ray and found that some bones were punctured during the incident. They gave him five high-strength antibiotics, which he is still taking.

Two days later while at an appointment with his family doctor, Stoltenberg was told the Humane Society “didn’t have the cat.”

“They said that we were going to bring the cat in. That we were bringing it in,” Stoltenberg said. “Well, they took it that night. That was the first story we got. I mean, it’s changed a lot.”

Since the whereabouts of the cat were unknown, the doctor told Stoltenberg he needed to begin rabies vaccinations right away. So far, Stoltenberg has completed two of the four doses.

He said he’s experiencing many negative side effects to the rabies vaccinations, including nausea, body aches, weakness and exhaustion.

Stoltenberg is scheduled for a knee replacement in the upcoming months, and said he’s nervous it may not happen now.

He said they tried many times to contact the Humane Society, but said staff “refused to answer questions.”

“I’d just like it not to happen - what happened to us where they lost the cat or they got rid of it - I just don’t want it to happen again,” Stoltenberg said. “We need the Humane Society. We really need them, but we need them to do their job. I just don’t want it to happen to a younger person or an older person.”

A report from the Vet Diagnostic Center shows the facility received a male cat on July 21, six days after the incident. The report indicates the cat couldn’t be tested for rabies, because the gunshot wound to the head caused too much damage to the brain.

The report from the Veterinary Diagnostic Center states the cat couldn't be tested due to damage to the brain.
The report from the Veterinary Diagnostic Center states the cat couldn't be tested due to damage to the brain.(KSNB)

“There are key areas of the brain that we have to collect to test,” said Dr. Bruce Brodersen, director of the Vet Diagnostic Center. “If those areas are missing, you know if the brain has just really been badly damaged, we can’t test those and those are deemed unsuitable.”

Brodersen said in a case where the lab can’t identify if the animal had rabies, the human exposed needs to undergo vaccinations.

Although most common with bats, Brodersen said if a carcass is left out too long, especially in ambient temperatures, it’ll dry out to the point where there’s nothing left in the skull.

He said most animals, even if they’ve been dead for three days, can be tested. If an animal is refrigerated, he said the brain will stay “pretty good.”

While a body can remain intact for a few days, Brodersen said it’s best to send them to the lab as soon as possible.

A bite to the hand travels up the nerves to the brain. The virus infects the brain. Inflammation resulting from the infection causes a variety of symptoms, including hydrophobia and seizures. Brodersen said it ultimately results in death.

“If there is a true exposure, those individuals need to start treatment within about a weeks time,” Brodersen said. “It is kind of the window of time to safely have to initiate post-exposure prophylaxis.”

He said if the sample reaches their lab before 11 a.m. during operating hours, they can have results back the same day.

Despite the report, Stoltenberg said he’s not convinced the same cat that bit him was the same cat the Humane Society sent to the lab.

“Did they find the right cat? They would not send us pictures and let us see. We knew what the cat looked like, but we never got a picture of what cat they sent in or what they did,” Stoltenberg said. “You know you trust somebody to do something, and then they don’t do it.”

Local4 reached out to the board president of the Central Nebraska Humane Society for comment, but didn’t hear back.

Copyright 2020 KSNB. All rights reserved.

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