Spain’s decision to euthanise the dog of a nurse who contracted Ebola has sparked a global outcry and clashes between police and animal rights activists after 390,000 people signed a petition urging to Government to save its life.
Officials from Madrid's regional government obtained a court order on Tuesday to put down nurse Teresa Romero’s pet Excalibur, despite uncertainty over whether the dog was also infected or risked spreading the disease to humans.
Ms Romero, 40, contracted the deadly Ebola virus in Spain after treating Spanish missionaries repatriated from West Africa.
Outrage spread rapidly on social media after Ms Romero's husband, who is being quarantined in a Madrid hospital, reached out to animal rights group via a video appeal.
He told activists: "I'm in the hospital and I'm making a call to all people to help me save my dog Excalibur because they want to kill him just like that, without following any procedure.”
About 50 furious demonstrators responded to his call by gathering outside the couple’s home in Madrid and shouting “assassins” at those taking Excalibur to be put down. Police were seen pulling away activists blocking the road as firefighters attempted to gain access to the property.
Two protesters were injured as they tried to block the van transporting Excalibur.
An online protest via Change.org gathered momentum throughout the afternoon, with over 395,000 people having signed it by the end of the day.
Activists were also camped outside the hospital attempting to pressure local authorities into saving the pet, shouting slogans such as: “Excalibur, you are not alone.”
Despite this, Madrid's regional Government announced on Wednesday evening that it had euthanised the pet, prompting an outpouring of grief on social networks.
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
Excalibur was "sedated beforehand to avoid suffering," Madrid's regional health agency said in a statement.
The corpse was then "put into a sealed biosecurity device and transferred for incineration at an authorised disposal facility”.
Ben Williamson, a spokesperson for PETA, said: "PETA is sad to hear that a dearly loved dog was destroyed because of the Ebola scare, even though no one can point to any evidence that dogs can transmit Ebola and efforts could have been made to quarantine him.
"The last thing that this nurse needs is to learn that a family member has been lost, even if, as we all hope, her own life is saved. We appeal for common sense and mercy to prevail if such a case arises in the future."