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Rabid puppies leave Cleveland Co. neighbors owing thousands of dollars in medical bills

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Imagine two stray puppies wandering around your home and being a Good Samaritan, you take them in.

That's the case in one Cleveland County neighborhood and that decision has proven costly.

"I just about collapsed when I saw the first statement for me," said resident Michelle Wray.

Wray and Mel West are just two of 18 people who came in contact with a rabid puppy.

Wray says last month someone abandoned two pups along Elam Road in Lawndale.

Wray decided to adopt one of the puppies for her children, but notice something was wrong days later.

She took the sick pup to the vet and after several health tests came back negative, doctors said the only thing left is that the dog had rabies.

The puppy was put down and sent off for testing.

When test results came back, they were positive.

"This is what happens when you try to be the good Samaritan and people drop animals off and cause these kinds of issues," said West.

As a precaution, the 18 neighbors got rabies vaccinations and a surprise when the bill came.

"I knew the shots were supposed to be expensive, but not an obscene amount. This is crazy," said West.

Wray's shots alone totaled over $26,000 and when you add in her two kids, the amount is over $49,000.

West's bill came up to $156,000.

They say what makes it even worse, is this is just the bills for their first round of treatments.

They haven't received their bills for the other three rounds of vaccines they were required to have.

Rabies vaccines can range in the thousands of dollars depending on the hospital and the body size of the person.

These neighbors now have a message for pet owners who no longer want to take care of their animals.

"If you don't want your animal, take it to the animal shelter instead of just dropping it off and putting it on someone else because these people have been exposed to rabies and don't even know it," said Wray.

A hard lesson learned, these neighbors say from now on they're calling animal control to handle strays.

Wray and West say they will explore different payment options.

Only one of the two puppies was tested for rabies, the other ran away.

Cleveland County Health officials say if you came in contact with either one of the puppies you should contact you healthcare provider for a rabies risk assessment.

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