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