The Bad News: Shelters pushed past capacity ... creating the perfect conditions for deadly dog flu outbreaks.
The Good News: There are temporary solutions available, and 600 Million Dogs is working to develop a humane, permanent solution!
First, the bad news. Overcrowding has reached an all-time high at some shelters. As a result, dogs there are rapidly dying of diseases.
A shelter in Raleigh, North Carolina, closed October 6 after 5 dogs died and another 57 were infected with canine influenza virus, also known as dog flu. As of this writing in December, it is still closed for intake of any new animals. “We cannot take animals in this facility while we’re on lockdown,” said Jennifer Federico, DVM, the director of Wake County Animal Center, according to WRAL News.
In Las Vegas, Nevada, 5 dogs died within a 2-week period in October from the virus.
Lauren Anton, executive director of Saving Hope Animal Rescue in Fort Worth, Texas, says that the dogs that aren't put down are dying due to disease, according to an article by CBS News.
In Aledo, Texas, 10 dogs were lost to the virus in a 2-week period.
Fortunately, this kind of dog flu cannot spread to humans, so shelter workers are still able to provide care and support to the remaining animals. But the virus is highly contagious, and most dogs who come into contact with it will end up infected.
According to rescue groups, the latest spike in illnesses is a multi-pronged issue. The veterinarian shortage crisis, the increase in companion animal abandonment, and a spike in the cost of treatment are all contributing to the problem.
"As our community knows all too well, the number of pets coming to us has been pushing our shelter past capacity for well over a year – and unfortunately, it’s that situation – tons of dogs living together in one space – that’s the perfect breeding ground for viruses like this,” said Wake County Commissioner Cheryl Stallings.
Overcrowding in shelters is one of the biggest causes of the spread of disease. While the picture might appear grim, many shelters are actively working on solutions.
1. Improved Conditions: Better ventilation, fresh air, and more outdoor spaces can help reduce the spread of diseases. Community funding for modern, well-funded shelters with more space for each animal is essential.
2. Health screenings: Implementing health checks for every animal upon arrival helps identify and isolate those with potential illnesses.
3. Vaccination protocols: Administering vaccinations for common shelter diseases can create a herd immunity, protecting a larger segment of the population.
4. Stress reduction: Enhancing shelter environments to reduce stress, such as providing comfortable resting spaces, playtime, and socialization, can boost animals' overall immunity.
5. Community education: Public awareness campaigns about the importance of vaccination and spaying/neutering can reduce the number of animals who end up in shelters.
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