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Parvo outbreak proves disastrous for shelter

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By Chambers Williams

An outbreak of canine parvovirus led to the euthanasia of all 12 dogs at Campbell County’s Adrion Baird Animal Center last Friday, and the facility has been closed since then as staff and volunteers have worked to disinfect the dog pens, County Mayor E.L. Morton said.

All of the dogs at the center, which includes owner surrenders and strays, had to be put down to allow for disinfecting the facility to avoid passing the virus on to any new animals coming in, the mayor said.

“Unfortunately, that’s what had to happen,” Morton said. “We have removed dividers, cleaned drains and priced new floor sealant, and will re-seal the floor if we can afford to.”

The drama unfolded when one of the dogs became ill and tested positive for parvovirus, a nasty disease affecting canines that usually kills most of the animals it infects.

“Standard shelter protocol is to euthanize the dogs exposed to the virus,” said Mez Bruce, the mayor’s office assistant, who is also overseeing the animal center. Hired recently, Bruce has more than three years’ experience as a veterinary technician, and holds degrees in biology and animal science.

Bruce said that shelter staff and volunteers from the Friends of Campbell County Animals had spent more than three days cleaning and disinfecting the facility, and that that the plan was to reopen the center to begin receiving animals again late this week.

“When there is parvo in a shelter, the dogs can’t be adopted out and animal rescues will not take them because they have potentially been exposed to the virus,” Deputy Mayor Andy Wallace said.

The virus normally does not affect cats, but there was only one cat in the shelter when the outbreak occurred, Morton said. No cats were euthanized. The virus doesn’t affect humans.

Coyotes roaming the county have been known to carry the parvovirus and are believed to have transmitted it to some dogs, the mayor said. It’s normally spread through feces from infected animals, but can last for up to a year in the soil. There is a vaccine that protects dogs from the virus, but there’s no way to know whether any strays have been vaccinated.

The shelter does have a quarantine area that can be used to house dogs while the main kennels are being disinfected, and new animals can be accepted if necessary, Morton said.

“But we are trying to keep the kennels vacant until the cleaning is done.”

It’s yet another issue at the county animal facility, but to be fair, one that could happen at any animal shelter.

Could any of the dogs have been saved? Morton and Bruce don’t believe so. According to my research on parvo, it’s difficult to treat, and it’s most likely that all of the dogs that were euthanized had been exposed and would eventually have come down with the disease, which has about a 91 percent fatality rate.

The county does not have the budget to pay for the kind of extensive veterinary treatment it would take to save a dog with parvovirus, or even to vaccinate dogs that hadn’t gotten sick.

Even that probably wouldn’thave worked, at least for all of the animals, because it takes about two weeks for the parvo vaccine to take effect -- and that’s after the full series of shots has been given to each animal.

Let’s just hope that the cleaning and disinfecting that’s being so thoroughly done this week will eradicate the virus from the facility, and that it doesn’t strike again.

Contact Editor G. Chambers Williams III at 423-562-8468 Ext. 231, or at chambers@lafollettepress.com.