Police response to illegal fox generates social media interest

Social media users around the country have been weighing in on a decision by the Minot Police Department and state health officials to euthanize a silver fox, kept as a pet in a Minot residence.

Minot Police issued a release Friday, reporting that a fox had bitten an officer who was attempting to take the animal into custody. Police had taken action after receiving a third-party report that the fox had bitten a person. Fox are included among 31 categories of prohibited animals within city limits in Minot’s city ordinances.

In less than a day after release of the police report, more than 3,000 signatures were listed an online petition to the mayor, police, Board of Animal Health and North Dakota Health Department asking for “justice for the unlawful euthanization.” A separate petition to the Minot City Council asking for a change in the city ordinance to allow fox saw an uptick in its signatures to more than 500.

The social media site, Reddit, had garnered more than 25,000 up or down votes and nearly 2,000 comments on a post about the fox by Saturday afternoon. Feedback also was occurring on other social media and news media websites. Although many people opposed the euthanization or objected to the way the situation was handled, some commenters pointed out the ordinance violation.

The fox was euthanized Friday by Minot Veterinary Clinic at the recommendation of State Health Department to test for rabies. The department indicated that quarantine is not an option due to the unknown length of time before symptoms appear in wild animals.

After taking custody of the fox, police were able to obtain a certificate from a Rugby veterinary clinic showing the fox had been vaccinated against rabies. However, the vaccine was one used to vaccinate ferrets. The State Veterinarian informed Minot Police that there is not a preventive rabies vaccine recognized for fox by the Centers for Disease Control.

Capt. John Klug with the police department said officers were continuing on Friday to investigate the original complaint about the fox having bitten a person. He said the department anticipates releasing further information on Monday.

Contrary to one website post that the fox’s residency in Minot was approved by the mayor, Mayor Curt Zimbelman said he does not recall discussing such a matter and would not have approved a situation that violates city ordinance. He said he does not support changing the ordinance.

Council member Tom Seymour, who serves the ward in which the fox was residing, also said he had been unaware of the fox and never had been contacted by anyone interested in changing the ordinance.