PACC extends shutdown through Monday to limit disease spread in animal shelter
Adoptions, fostering halted as Pima Animal Care Center works to contain canine respiratory infections
Pima Animal Care Center will be closed to the public through Monday as officials work to stem the contagious respiratory disease strep zoo. While animals can be dropped off in an emergency situation, all adoptions and fostering as well as regular admissions are being halted.
As of Friday morning, two dogs were euthanized due to severe illness likely caused by Strep zoo, PACC reported. The shelter also has four dogs that tested positive for strep zoo, and five dogs are in quarantine pending test results. The results for those seven cases are expected within the next few days.
The shelter is expected to open again but with "limited services" by Jan. 24, Monica Dangler, director of Animal Services, said in a press release. They could remain closed, however, if more dogs show signs of severe pneumonia, which is a symptom of strep zoo.
“PACC is anxious to get back to normal,” Dangler said. “However, we want to make sure that we’re doing right by the community and the pets in our care.”
Officials are looking for "emergency fosters" for some dogs who have not been exposed to the infection.
The Humane Society of Southern Arizona remains open, representatives said. Thursday, the nonprofit group said that it had worked with two other nonprofit animal rescue groups — Lost and Stray Response Squad and Pathways for Paws — to pull 50 dogs out of a home after an overwhelmed owner had asked for help.
"We step up to serve our community’s pets whenever and wherever we see the need. That need is great today," HSSA CEO Steve Farley said.
The county shelter has experienced overcrowding nearly continuously for the past several years.
Last week, PACC said it was limiting its intake of animals after a dog at the shelter tested positive for the infection. Officials did not release details but said Tuesday that "several additional dogs" at the shelter tested positive or were showing symptoms of the disease.
"All dogs in the shelter have received the recommended antibiotic treatment," officials said.
PACC extended its shut down on Tuesday to run through Friday, but it announced Friday morning that closure would continue through the weekend.
The shelter will only be allowing emergency-only admissions during the closure. The county facility will still allow people to drop off some animals:
- A pet in medical distress
- An aggressive pet
- Any situation involving an injury to a human or animal
Last Friday, county sources told the Tucson Sentinel that officials were examining the possibility of moving some dogs out of the shelter and boarding them at other county facilities, to cut back on the possibility of transmitting strep zoo among more animals.
Due to the outbreak, all intake appointments are being rescheduled. Anyone able to foster can fill out a form online so that shelter staff can contact them.
“It is necessary for us to move to emergency-only intake for the next week in order to minimize the number of animals exposed to this infection,” Monica Dangler, director of PACC's Animal Services, said last week.
"Adoptions and foster services will not be available for dogs currently on PACC’s campus during the closure," officials said Tuesday. "However, PACC does have several dogs who have not been exposed who need placement. PACC always asks that pets that are new to the home are kept separate from existing pets for 14 days. These dogs have not been evaluated but appear to be healthy and friendly."
Potential emergency fosters can apply online.
Anyone who needs to surrender a pet should PACC’s Pet Support page and exhaust all efforts to re-home their pet before contacting the shelter, according to the shelter. Other area shelters are also available.
For found pets, people are encouraged to find the owner by knocking on doors, posting flyers, submitting a report on Petco Love Lost and getting the pet scanned for a microchip at a vet clinic for free. They can also hold onto the pet until the owner can be located.
Anyone finding a stray that is injured, ill or aggressive needs to contact the Animal Protection Services dispatch line at (520) 724-5900 and press 4.
Anyone who does decide to adopt or foster a dog from the shelter, 4000 N. Silverbell Rd., or has already done so since Jan. 5 should watch for symptoms of respiratory illness.
They should look for coughing, discharge from the nose, and depression, but signs of infection also include vomiting, labored breathing, coughing blood and discharge from the nose. The onset is typically sudden.
Streptococcus zooepidemicus rarely infects cats, and human cases are extremely rare though people with very poorly functioning immune systems could be at risk for contracting the illness.
If the dog is showing those symptoms, PACC offers medication to treat them. People can stop by the PACC clinic between noon and 6 p.m. on weekdays to pick that up or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.
People who already have pets and decide to adopt or foster another are encouraged, as always, to keep their new pet separate from their existing dogs and cats for 14 days.
Strep zoo is normally found in horses, cattle, pigs and guinea pigs, but it rarely causes disease. When it infects immunocompromised dogs, however, it may cause severe pneumonia.
No vaccine exists for strep zoo, and it has few warning signs. It’s caused outbreaks of fatal pneumonia in shelter dogs worldwide due to stressed and crowded conditions in shelters.
The shelter recently had to put 20 dogs on their euthanasia list in December after needing to make room during a separate outbreak of strep zoo. Only 9 more dogs from that list remain to be adopted or fostered.
They also suspended most of their admissions in April after a dog was found dead in its kennel from what was believed to be strep zoo. The shelter also had an outbreak of strep zoo in May 2018, when they only had about 350 dogs. Now, PACC reports that they have 511 dogs that they care for on their campus and that their kennel space crisis is at a "critical" level.
The dog at PACC who tested positive is responding well to treatment, according to the shelter. PACC also asks that people consider making a financial donation to their nonprofit partner, Friends of Pima Animal Care Center, to help with the cost of treatment for the dogs on their campus.
Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.