Amherst County Family Appeals Order to Isolate Animals

Amherst Co., VA - An Amherst County family is facing off with the health department in court, after rescuing a kitten that tested positive for rabies.

The health department has given the family two options: Isolate their other pets for at least six months or euthanized them.

The health department could not comment on this specific case, but says that's their general policy.

To call the Lawhorne's angry would be an understatement.

"We did everything right, but we're still being punished by the health department because we took this crummy little cat in out of the cold," Bruce Lawhorne said, sitting next to his wife in their living room.

The Lawhornes say a few days after rescuing a yellow kitten near their home on Boxwood Farm Road, he began showing symptoms of rabies.

"He started having problems walking," Marcia Lawhorne explained.

They made the tough decision to euthanize the animal which later tested positive for the virus. A few days later, a so-called death letter was hand delivered to their front door.

Their three dogs and remaining cat were not up to date on their rabies vaccines, so the health department's ordered they spend the next six months in total isolation, enough time to see if they've been exposed to the virus.

"This is an awful disease. And it's a disease that's unforgiving completely of mistakes," explained Dr. Kerry Gateley, the director of Lynchburg's Health Department.

But the Lawhorne's claim their other animals had no contact with the rabid kitten.

"I feel like they're discriminating, trying to bully us into doing something," said Marcia.

The health department can't discuss the specifics of the Lawhorne's case. But, the director says they always err on the side of caution, especially when a rabid animal was living inside a home.

The Lawhorne's plan on hiring an attorney and appealing the decision in court. In the meantime, their dogs are locked up in their backyard.

As for the health department, they say this goes to show how important it is to get your animals vaccinated.