PACC temporarily halting services to combat illnesses

Published: Nov. 9, 2016 at 6:31 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2016 at 8:33 PM MST
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(Source: Pima County)
(Source: Pima County)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Voluntary pet surrenders have been put on hold at Pima Animal Care Center because of shelter-related dog illnesses that can be deadly if not treated quickly, according to a news release from Pima County.

Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 9, pet surrenders and on-site adoptions have been put on hold for two weeks, while PACC staff creates room to house its healthy pets. Mandated functions that PACC performs, like law enforcement, cruelty and neglect cases, and rabies quarantine will continue as normal.

This halt is due to seven cases of canine distempervirus (distemper), five cases of Streptococcus equi zooepidemicus (Strep zoo) and one dog with both, that were found in dogs at the shelter. Both diseases are highly contagious among dogs in a shelter situation and can be deadly if left untreated.

While many shelters opt to euthanize animals that are sick, this is not the approach that PACC is taking, according to the Board of Supervisors and County Administrator.

All dogs showing signs of sickness have been isolated for testing and treatment. All healthy dogs have received and will continue to receive antibiotic treatment to help get rid of the viruses. All treated dogs will undergo a 14-day observation period and testing to ensure they are not contagious or ill.

According to PACC veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer Wilcox, it could take between 10 and 14 days for the antibiotics to do their work and help stop the spread of the viruses.

"The most recent batch of test results show that no new cases of these diseases have occurred since the original spike in cases began on Thursday, Nov. 3," Wilcox said.

Voluntary surrenders and pet adoptions have been halted at PACC to help keep the viruses from spreading to the community. Anyone who needs to surrender a pet during this time can call PACC's Pet Support Center at (520) 724-7222. PACC staff and volunteers will work with those who find stray animals to help place them with partner welfare agencies or assist them with re-homing the pets to their rightful owners.

Cat surrenders and adoptions have also been put on hold during the 14 day period, to help minimize shelter traffic and allow PACC to quickly resolve the issue. Strep zoo may infect cats in rare cases, and could theoretically infect people with a compromised immune system.

According to Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County Public Health Director, the decision to hold cat surrenders was made out of an abundance of caution, at this time all PACC cats are healthy and show no signs of strep zoo.

Healthy dogs, including those immune to distemper and those who have completed antibiotic treatment for strep zoo, will be transferred to a boarding facility for temporary house. This will create extra space inside the main shelter for PACC staff to relocate the dogs that are being housed in the tent. Staff will disinfect the tent, in order to begin housing the healthy incoming dogs. The tent will also be used to house all new strays and other dogs brought to PACC via mandated enforcement activities.

PACC is hoping to resume adoptions for healthy dogs by Nov. 14 - 18 with normal operations resuming the week of Nov. 21 - 25.

This halt on surrenders and adoptions does not stop the "Don't Shop, Adopt" event that is taking place on Nov. 12 at the Tucson Spectrum PetSmart (1175 W. Irvington). PACC staff will work with other regional animal-welfare organizations to bring their healthy and unexposed dogs in for adoption.

Both Garcia and Wilcox are emphasizing the threat to Pima County's pet community is minimal. These two viruses are commonly seen in animal shelters where pet density is high. If pet owners are concerned about their pets, they should contact their veterinarian and make sure their animals vaccinations are up-to-date. These viruses also do not pose a threat to Pima County's human residents.

Dr. Alexis Moreno, veterinarian at VCA Valley Animal Hospital said they see cases of respiratory viruses all year round. She does say, however, these viruses can be more common when the weather changes.

She says these highly contagious and potentially deadly viruses are easily preventable.

"If your adult dog has been vaccinated and been kept up in vaccines whether that's annually or every three years, the likelihood of them coming down with it are slim to none," Dr. Moreno said.

She says if your dog hasn't been vaccinated, keep away from places where viruses could spread, like dog parks. She also said to watch out for symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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