Pinellas County Animal Services announced earlier this month it is temporarily suspending all dog adoptions and intakes until at least the new year after staff detected canine pneumovirus among its shelter dogs.
In October, Pasco County suspended dog intakes and transfers due to the same virus. The next month, Hernando County followed suit. Pasco services have resumed, while Hernando’s are still shut down.
Doug Brightwell, the animal services director in Pinellas, said staff on Dec. 5 diagnosed the first dog with pneumovirus in its current population of 127. By Dec. 8, 26% of the dog population was sick. The contagious upper respiratory infection causes nasal discharge, coughing and wheezing, Brightwell said.
“It’s growing exponentially every day,” Brightwell said. “Which is why we made the decision for public health to close because we want to keep our dogs isolated.”
The infection does not affect cats, and animal services is continuing with cat adoptions and intakes as normal, a Facebook post from staff said.
The incubation period for the virus is shorter than an average kennel cough, Brightwell said, making it harder to control.
Pinellas County Animal Services keeps its dogs in four housing areas, and all of them have been infected, he said. The diseased dogs are receiving antibiotics and supportive treatment.
Currently, there is no vaccine for the pneumovirus, Brightwell said. Additionally, there has not been enough research on the virus to know how long a dog is immune after being infected, he said.
Staff spoke with an infectious disease veterinarian at the University of Florida, Brightwell said, who advised animal services to isolate its dogs while the virus runs its course.
Earlier in the year, staff noticed an outbreak of the virus in one of their housing units. In that instance, workers were able to isolate the dogs fast enough to stop the viral spread and maintain normal operations elsewhere.
The pause in adoptions comes just a few days after staff said it was waiving adoption fees for 60 available shelter dogs.
“Every year in December we try to get as many animals out of the shelter into permanent and foster homes before Christmas, so that we have the lowest population in the building, and they get to spend the holidays in a home versus in a shelter environment,” Brightwell said.
Once the dog population is healthy, likely in the beginning of the new year, Brightwell expects they’ll have a large adoption special.
Brightwell advised dog owners to keep their pets up to date on their vaccines and keep an eye out if they aren’t feeling well.
“If they’re not doing well, take them to the veterinarian, get the supportive treatment so that you’re not letting them be sick and exposing other pets,” Brightwell said.