Ohio checking on prairie dogs brought into state

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Ohio Health and Agriculture departments are looking for the owners of 14 prairie dogs brought into the state in late April to make sure they aren't infected with monkeypox.

Officials said on Monday the prairie dogs were sold to Ohioans in Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Knox and Richland counties by an Illinois ealer whose animals have been linked to the monkeypox outbreak in the Midwest.

Agriculture Department veterinarian Dr. Kathy Smith said inspectors will make sure the animals were brought in legally and that they are healthy, have a permit and are either spayed or neutered.

Thirty-seven cases of monkeypox are either suspected or have been confirmed in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.

So far, no monkeypox cases have been found in Ohio, officials said.

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease found mostly in the rainforest countries of Africa that can be spread from animals to humans and from one person to another.

Prairie dogs, burrowing, colony-dwelling rodents known for their barking cry, have become popular among some people who consider them affectionate, lovable pets.

"They are pretty cute little rodents," said Dr. Donald Burton, a Columbus veterinarian and executive director of the Ohio Wildlife Center.

People who own prairie dogs should have them evaluated immediately by a veterinarian, he said. For now, he advises against buying them.