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  • PACC reduces services to combat canine-related illness

    Nov 09, 2016 | Read More News
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    PACC dogPima Animal Care Center officials will halt voluntary pet surrenders from owners for two weeks, starting Nov. 9, due to shelter-related dog illnesses that can be deadly if not quickly treated. On-site adoptions will also stop for a short period while the shelter makes room to house its healthy pets.
    The shelter’s mandated functions, including law enforcement, cruelty and neglect cases and rabies quarantine will continue uninterrupted as normal.
    Medical staff at PACC have identified 7 cases in dogs of Canine Distempervirus (distemper), 5 cases of Streptococcus equi zooepidemicus (Strep zoo) and 1 with both. Both diseases are highly contagious among dogs in shelter settings and can be potentially lethal if untreated. 

    Some facilities faced with this challenge have elected to euthanize all of its shelter dogs. Such an approach is counter to PACC’s mission and does not follow the direction and policy of the Board of Supervisors and County Administrator. 

    The shelter has isolated all dogs showing any evidence of illness from the remaining population for testing and treatment. In addition, all healthy-appearing dogs have received and will continue to receive prophylactic antibiotic treatment to eradicate the infectious organisms. All treated dogs will also undergo a 14-day period of observation and testing to ensure they are not contagious or ill. PACC veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Wilcox estimates it will take between 10 and 14 days for the antibiotics to eradicate the illnesses in the current population and stop the spread. 

    Wilcox said, “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.” 

    At this time, PACC officials have decided to stop all voluntary owner-surrendered animals and also temporarily halted adoptions of the potentially exposed population of dogs to prevent further pet exposure in the community.

    Those who need to surrender a pet during this time can call PACC’s Pet Support Center at (520) 724-7222. Staff and volunteers will work with individuals who find stray animals to place them with partner welfare agencies or to assist with rehoming those pets to their appropriate owners. 

    While these diseases primarily affect only canines, PACC officials decided to also hold cat surrenders and adoptions to minimize shelter traffic and allow the shelter to quickly resolve this issue. In very rare circumstances, strep zoo may infect cats and could theoretically infect severely immunocompromised people.

    Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Francisco García said 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, which include those immune to distemper and those that have completed antibiotic treatment for strep zoo, will be transferred to a regional boarding facility for temporary housing. This will create extra room inside the main shelter for PACC staff to relocate the dogs in the tent. Staff will disinfect the tent to begin housing its healthy incoming dog population there. Staff will also use the tent to house all new stray dogs and other dogs brought to PACC through mandated enforcement activities. 

    The shelter’s administration hopes to resume dog adoptions for healthy, unexposed dogs at the end of next week, Nov. 14–18. New dogs may still need to recover from spay or neuter surgeries or wait-out their three-day holding period. Normal operations at PACC should resume the week of Nov. 21–25.

    PACC’s long-planned outreach and adoption event, “Don’t Shop, Adopt” scheduled for Nov. 12 at the Tucson Spectrum PetSmart, 1175 W. Irvington, will still continue. PACC staff will work with other regional animal-welfare organizations to bring their healthy and unexposed dogs for adoption. 

    Drs. García and Wilcox have emphasized that there is minimal threat to the County’s pet community. These illnesses are more commonly seen in animal shelters were animal density is high. However, if pet owners are concerned about the health of their pet, they should contact their veterinarian and make sure their pets’ vaccinations are up to date. Dr. García also stressed that these illnesses do not pose a threat to Pima County human residents.
    PACC’s volunteers and animal-welfare partners have rallied around the organization to help it through this difficult time. PACC asks for the community’s patience while it deals with this pet health issue and works to return to normal operations as soon as possible.

    For additional information on these two diseases, please refer to this FAQ on canine-related illnesses.

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