Scuffles in Spain as Ebola victim's dog Excalibur is euthanised

Teresa Romero Ramos, the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola, is pictured with her dog Excalibur in this undated handout photo provided on Oct 8, 2014. Madrid regional authorities said they would euthanise the nurse's dog Excalibur to avoid possible c
Teresa Romero Ramos, the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola, is pictured with her dog Excalibur in this undated handout photo provided on Oct 8, 2014. Madrid regional authorities said they would euthanise the nurse's dog Excalibur to avoid possible contagion, sparking an outcry by animal rights activists to save the dog. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Spanish police block animal rights activists protesting outside the apartment building of the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola in Alcorcon, outside Madrid, Oct 8, 2014. Madrid regional authorities said they would euthanise the nurse's dog Excalibur
Spanish police block animal rights activists protesting outside the apartment building of the Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola in Alcorcon, outside Madrid, Oct 8, 2014. Madrid regional authorities said they would euthanise the nurse's dog Excalibur to avoid possible contagion, sparking an outcry by animal rights activists to save the dog. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (AFP) - The dog of a Spanish nurse infected with Ebola in Madrid was put down on Wednesday by health authorities who feared it could spread the deadly disease, despite a campaign to spare him by animal rights activists.

Protesters trying to save the dog, a mixed breed mutt named Excalibur, scuffled with police as they attempted to stop health department officials from removing the animal from Teresa Romero's apartment in Alcorcon on the outskirts of the Spanish capital.

Two people were injured as officers carried away some of the dozens of activists who blocked a veterinary van from entering the gated complex where the apartment is located, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

Local police said they had no reports of any injuries.

Just 40 minutes after the dog was removed from the apartment, Madrid's regional government issued a statement saying it had been put down.

The dog had been put to sleep "to avoid suffering," the statement said.

The regional government obtained a court order on Tuesday to euthanise the dog, saying there was a risk the dog could be "a carrier of the virus even without showing symptoms", and that it could "expel the virus in its fluids with a potential risk of contagion".

Animal rights group Pacma said there was no evidence of the Ebola virus being transmitted from dogs to humans.

An online petition on Change.org demanding that the dog be put in quarantine instead of being put down gathered 374,000 signatures.

Its owner, Romero, in her 40s, was part of a medical team that treated two Spanish priests who were brought back from west Africa for treatment for Ebola but both died.

She was diagnosed with the disease on Monday, becoming the first known case of Ebola being transmitted outside of West Africa, where a months-long outbreak has killed nearly 3,500 people and infected at least twice as many.

Her husband, Javier Limon, who has been placed in quarantine as a precaution, contacted Spanish media to object to the decision by Madrid's regional government to have the dog put down.

"The dog is fine. He has the whole house to himself, with the open terrace so he can do his business," he said in a telephone interview with El Mundo newspaper from his hospital room.

He said the dog had no contact with the outside world, had enough food and water inside the apartment to last for several weeks and therefore presented little risk to public health.

"Are they going to put me to sleep, too?" he said.