April 30, 2013
The Logan Co pound in WV has been closed for quarantine. A local television station reports that three dogs have tested positive for distemper and volunteers at the pound suspect 17 other dogs have died from the disease recently. Dozens of dogs remain inside the facility:
“If they are not laying there dying they are being put down,” said SAFE volunteer Michelle Starr.
Well that sounds pretty awful. It’s hard to imagine anything worse but don’t give up hope so quickly because there’s this:
Twenty-six dogs had to be vaccinated at the Logan County Animal Shelter after a distemper outbreak, and one dog had to be put down.
*facepalm* Gee we’ve got a confirmed distemper outbreak, I guess we’ll have to vaccinate – there’s just no way of avoiding it at this point.
If the Logan Co pound had been vaccinating upon intake across the board, utilizing routine cleaning practices and quarantining new arrivals, they might not have dogs dying left and right. Vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake is key to preventing and minimizing distemper outbreaks. From the Koret Shelter Medicine Program info sheet on Canine Distemper Virus (CDV):
The most important factor in disease risk is vaccination: a “fully” vaccinated animal over four months of age is at very low risk of CDV infection. However, even incompletely vaccinated animals may survive a possible exposure.
It sounds like Logan Co does little to nothing to prevent disease outbreak at the pound:
SAFE volunteers said the distemper outbreak is not an unusual problem. They provided 13 News with a letter from Michael Koch, a veterinarian at Tug Valley Veterinary Clinic in Williamson. Koch said in the letter that he has treated several animals from the pound. In the document Koch writes:
“All of the patients I have examined have been afflicted by at least one infectious or contagious disease. Some of them have had multiple diseases. I have diagnosed Sarcoptic mange, infectious canine tracheobronchitis, canine distemper, parvovirus, coccidiosis, hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. All of the patients have been in a very poor state of health.”
Pound officials said they do the best they can to regularly care for the animals and disinfect the facility, pointing out that animals are often not vaccinated when they come to the facility and are already in very poor condition.
They’re doing the best they can. It’s the public’s fault for not vaccinating and providing proper vet care – which the pound doesn’t do either but hey, why quibble over details?
Logan County Commissioner Danny Godby confirmed that workers put down at least eight dogs within the past month after testing positive for parvo.
Vaccination upon intake. Vaccination upon intake. Vaccination upon intake.
“We are doing our best to save these animals,” said [County Administrator Rosco] Adkins.
So I’ve heard.
(Thanks Clarice for the links on this story.)
As I have written repeatedly on this blog, parvo is preventable and treatable and every animal shelter has an obligation to both prevent and treat this disease. Parvo in shelters is prevented through the practice of vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake, good housing practices and standard disease prevention cleaning protocols.
Parvo is not the dreaded disease it once was. There are excellent prevention and treatment protocols available for shelters and pet owners to follow. Any shelter or state whose policy is to kill every dog in the place in the face of an outbreak (suspected or confirmed) is operating in The Before Time.
Meet Stokes Co, NC. As of Wednesday, the pound had killed 12 dogs and planned to kill 18 more after one dog adopted from the facility reportedly contracted parvo. County Manager Rick Morris, veterinarian Deborah Cowan, who is also chairwoman of the Stokes Co Animal Control Advisory Council, and pound director Phillip Handy “decided on Tuesday to ban adoptions of dogs at the shelter, euthanize the dogs there and put down any dogs brought to the shelter without vaccination records.” And there’s more:
That policy will remain in place until an outdoor kernel is built so that the shelter staff can clean the shelter’s indoor kennels of feces and urine and place down chemicals to kill the virus, Cowan said.
And not to put too fine a point on the new policy but, ok:
“If you bring it here and it has no vaccination it will be euthanized,” said Veterinarian Deborah Cowan[.]
Gee, is she accepting new patients?
Candis Loy, the president of Animal Rescue of Stokes County, said that euthanizing the dogs is regrettable. “I don’t think they have a lot of choices,” said Loy, a member of the animal control advisory council.
Yeah, the pound has no quarantine area so not “a lot of choices” besides killing. Because how could any animal shelter be expected to be cleaned without an outdoor kennel? That’s bananas. Just kill them all.
But even when they get the outdoor kennels built, that still won’t be good enough:
Shelter advocates say it’s only a temporary fix until a new shelter can be constructed.
Fundraisers are already under way for a new shelter that will cost around $400,000.
“We are begging, we are pleading, we’ve been getting down on our knees asking people to help,” stated Cowan who says they need $40,000 right now to secure a discount on a new facility that could be up and running by 2015.
In the past 3 years, they’ve raised $13,000 toward the new shelter. At this rate, the killing will end never. And I suspect that’s exactly how the killing apologists in Stokes Co like it.
April 11, 2013
Parvo is a highly preventable and treatable disease, even in a shelter environment. The diagnosis of parvo, whether confirmed or merely suspected, is not a license to kill dogs. Euthanasia is appropriate based upon veterinary prognosis for an individual when a vet determines the dog is suffering and his chances of recovery through treatment are poor to grave.
The Conroe Animal Shelter in TX is run by the police department. The shelter does not appear to be fulfilling its obligations to provide true shelter to dogs in terms of prevention or treatment of parvo:
While the shelter immunizes animals brought into the facility, there is a 72-hour waiting period mandated by the state.
Please show me this TX law that says the mandatory stray hold requires shelters to shun best practices. And what about owner surrenders without documented vaccination history – does this same law require them to be left unvaccinated for 72 hours in the shelter too? Ridiculous.
And yet when a recent parvo outbreak at the Conroe Animal Shelter made the news, deputy chief of police Russell Reynolds astonishingly told a reporter:
“It is very important for pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated.”
When two dogs were impounded on April 4 who “displayed positive symptoms of the viral disorder”, the Conroe facility killed 60 dogs in response. They also ceased adoptions. Not that they had any live dogs left to adopt, I imagine.
“We’re doing everything we can to address the situation,” [Reynolds] said.
No you’re not. Following standard disease prevention protocols, including vaccination upon intake; providing treatment to dogs based upon veterinary diagnosis, not “looks like parvo”; and reserving euthanasia only for those individuals whom a veterinarian issues a poor to grave prognosis with treatment – that would be doing everything you can. What you’re doing is nothing. Nothing but killing.
(Thank you Clarice for the links.)
January 18, 2013
In a 14 page Blame the Community manifesto, the director of the Kern Co pound in CA, Jen Woodard, details the needless killing of pets and blames everybody but those doing the killing. Ms. Woodard previously worked for Best Friends in L.A. before taking the Kern Co job in October.
In the document, Ms. Woodard states that Kern Co kills any puppy who has parvo-like symptoms and tests positive on a snap test as well as all other exposed puppies less than 6 months of age. This practice is not based in science and should be discontinued immediately. Treatment of parvo puppies is possible in a shelter environment and that option should be fully explored by all shelters. Killing exposed dogs based solely on age, dogs who may in fact be immune, is cruel for the sake of cruelty – it serves no purpose. A compassionate director would have written 14 pages about that.
Instead, Ms. Woodard runs through a laundry list of members of the community to blame for the killing, including:
- Local vets, who all suck apparently and are only in it for the dough
- Mexicans, who don’t care about their pets because of “cultural beliefs”
- Local animal organizations, who do nothing but bicker
- The weather, which also sucks
- Pet owners in general, who don’t want to know how to protect their pets from diseases
And while blaming everybody else for their ignorance, Ms. Woodard demonstrates her own lack of understanding regarding disease prevention. For example, she states:
And furthermore, most puppy owners don’t know they need a series of 3 of the vaccines to be fully effective in preventing parvovirus and distemper. A pup with 2 vaccines is still susceptible.
This is not based in science. The number of vaccines a puppy receives is not what confers immunity but rather the timing of the vaccines relative to the presence of maternal antibodies. Before a shelter director goes blaming the Mexicans, it would be nice to see her demonstrate a meaningful understanding of vaccine conferred immunity in puppies.
The report offers a number of solutions to the killing and improper disease management protocols at the pound but none of them include “Stop needlessly killing animals and start using science based disease management strategies”. Instead, the report focuses on educating the public about the importance of vaccination, among other things, and includes a volunteer team to walk the streets and another team to call Craigslist ads for puppies to educate the ad placers. This is a puzzling strategy because earlier in the report, Ms. Woodard notes that one of the problems in the community is ignorance of “basic pet responsibility” which she attributes to the fact that “much of the community is uninterested in hearing this message”. Will the unwashed masses suddenly become interested if they get a call from someone telling them about spay-neuter in response to their Craigslist ad for puppies?
I am very disappointed in Ms. Woodard’s report, which was apparently not intended to be read by the public. I can see why.
Maddie’s Fund: Redefining Vaccination on Intake
(Thanks Clarice for sending me links on this story.)
Three whistleblowers went to the local Fox affiliate to expose wrongdoing at the Atlanta Humane Society, prompting the reporter to investigate further and visit the facility to ask for the other side of the story. The allegations involve a failure of the Atlanta Humane Society to report the occurrence of contagious diseases such as parvo to the state Department of Agriculture, as required by law. The reporter found that the Department of Agriculture hadn’t received a single contagious disease report from the facility for at least 2 years. Yet kill records from Atlanta HS for recent months indicate that almost all of animals killed have been puppies – for contagious disease.
There is a video of this great investigative piece at the link which I will describe in part for anyone unable to watch.
When visiting Atlanta HS, the reporter is met outside by Richard Rice, Vice President of Operations who, based on his response, has single-handedly lowered the bar for media crisis management for shelters. When first asked about the shelter’s apparent failure to report contagious diseases, Mr. Rice looks like an immune compromised medical patient being asked for a hug by a plague victim. As he dashes away, he promises to return with the records in question. The reporter sits outside on the curb for ninety minutes before Mr. Rice shows his face again. He doesn’t have the records but he does have a puppy. In what looks like an attempt by Gilligan to avoid being bonked with the Skipper’s hat (You wouldn’t hit a guy with a puppy, would you?), Mr. Rice explains that they’ve done their jobs, are in compliance with state law, nothing to see here, etc.
Eventually, Atlanta HS produces a bunch of fax forms which contain no identifying information about the reporting agency – an obvious requirement – which it says were used as an alternative to phone reporting to the state. The state says they never received a single one of these forms by fax. The fax machine at Atlanta HS prints out a record of every number ever dialed and the Department of Agriculture’s number appears zero times. Even if the faxes had been sent and received, they would not have brought Atlanta HS into compliance.
Apparently 10 million dollars does not necessarily buy plausible deniability.
Update: Atlanta HS has a response to the investigative report on its website. And the response is: You know that lame story we concocted about generic faxes that there is no evidence of ever having been sent or even existed prior to the news showing up? Well yeah – that, still. Also:
It is our hope that the perspectives of former employees do not overshadow the exceptional work that our team performs every day.
The “perspectives” of your former employees come with proof, Atlanta HS. Your “exceptional work”, not so much.
April 25, 2012
Just as it is unfair to punish a shelter dog based on breed, so it is unethical to kill shelter pets based on the name of a disease. In this post, I’m talking about canine parvovirus but the statement can apply to other diseases as well. Euthanasia to end the suffering of medically hopeless pets must be based upon the veterinary prognosis, not just the diagnosis of disease.
I was recently excited to learn that the No Kill Advocacy Center’s model legislation piece, the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) has been modified and the following provision removed from the document:
(2) Symptomatic dogs with confirmed cases of parvovirus or cats with confirmed cases of panleukopenia may be euthanized without delay, upon a certification made in writing and signed by a veterinarian licensed to practice medicine in this state that the prognosis is poor even with supportive care. Such certification shall be made available for free public inspection for no less than three years;
Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center explained that the language was removed in order “to move away from disease-based to prognosis-based legislation”. I fully support this change.
Parvo is preventable and treatable and every animal shelter has an obligation to both prevent and treat this disease. Parvo in shelters is prevented through the practice of vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake, good housing practices and standard disease prevention cleaning protocols. The disease is further prevented by ensuring the community’s dog owners have easy access to low cost vaccinations for their pets.
Treatment options for parvo dogs include in-house care if sufficient resources exist to provide isolation and appropriate veterinary care. If the facility is not equipped to provide treatment, parvo dogs may be transferred to another shelter with appropriate facilities or to a private veterinary clinic. Donations may be solicited from the public if necessary. The media can help in educating the public and spreading the word about the shelter’s efforts to save lives. The days of blanket killing of shelter dogs for parvo or exposure to the disease are over.
Killing dogs who have tested positive for parvo without providing treatment is unacceptable. Killing dogs who have not been tested or treated, who have been “diagnosed” by someone other than a veterinarian, who are asymptomatic but have been exposed or who are merely “suspected” of having the disease is also unacceptable. What are your local shelter’s protocols for handling parvo dogs?
Austin Pets Alive has a ward set up for parvo dogs, run by volunteers. The save rate is approximately 85% and dogs are usually back on their paws after a week. Disease free dogs are then put on the adoption floor so they can find loving homes and live normal, happy lives. How does that compare to your local shelter’s parvo protocols?
Shelters who fail to vaccinate all animals prior to or immediately upon intake are failing to prevent the spread of disease. Shelters who fail to utilize standard disease prevention cleaning protocols and/or maintain good housing practices are failing to prevent the spread of disease. These same shelters are often the ones who kill based on disease (or suspicion of disease) instead of veterinary prognosis and then blame the public for failing to vaccinate their pets.
All shelters need to bring their parvo protocols in line with current veterinary standards. Prevention and treatment are not luxuries. They are the minimum that every shelter pet is entitled to and the least we should expect from our municipal facilities.
Thank you to the No Kill Advocacy Center for modifying CAPA to reflect veterinary advances in the diagnosis and treatment of parvo and the duty of shelters to meet those standards. No disease diagnosis, exposure or suspicion should be an instant authorization to kill shelter pets. Further evaluation by a veterinarian is always appropriate and in most canine parvo cases, treatment is likely to be successful.
Free webinar by Dr. Ellen Jefferson on the parvo dogs ward at Austin Pets Alive. Type “Ellen Jefferson” in the search box and tick the “show past sessions” box to bring up the one hour webinar titled “Treating Parvo”.
Controlling Parvo: Real Life Scenarios by Dr. Kate Hurley
Disinfection 102: Beyond Cage Cleaning by Dr. Kate Hurley
Redefining Vaccination on Intake – Maddie’s Fund