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PACC suspends most shelter admissions following dog's death from possible 'strep zoo' infection

Suspected case of pneumonia-causing bacteria halts intakes as Pima County treats all dogs with antibiotics

Following the death of a dog over the weekend, Pima Animal Care Center will halt non-emergency admissions, officials said.

On Sunday morning, a dog was found dead in its kennel, and veterinarians with PACC are concerned the dog had Streptococcus equi zooepidemicus, or “Strep zoo.” As a precaution, the shelter said that it is treating all dogs in the shelter with antibiotics, and offering treatments for recently adopted dogs.

Strep zoo is a bacterium normally found in horses and livestock, as well as guinea pigs. While those animals don't get sick, dogs suffer can suffer severe pneumonia. Strep zoo rarely infects cats, but PACC officials warned that cats with poorly functioning immune systems could become sick.

PACC said that volunteers and shelter staff have been "advised on how to take precautions to ensure they don’t spread the disease outside the facility." In addition to halting non-emergency admissions, all dog-walking has been shut down for the section of the shelter where the dog died, officials said, adding that they locked that section of the facility so no one accidentally enters the area.

PACC officials are waiting for test results, but said that "any time a dog dies unexpectedly, the shelter treats the dog’s death as potentially contagious." As a precaution, all non-emergency admissions have been stopped at PACC, as well as intake appointments.

"We’re exercising an abundance of caution to protect the animals in the shelter and the community, and starting antibiotic prophylaxis for all animals in the shelter," said PACC Director Monica Dangler. "If this is not strep zoo, we plan to resume normal operations on April 28. If it is, we will likely have to extend the temporary halt to admissions a few more days."

PACC will stay open for adoptions, and said that anyone wishing to adopt or foster will be sent home with a course of antibiotics.

And, anyone who adopted or fostered a dog from PACC on Saturday, April 23, or Sunday, April 24, should come to PACC during business hours to pick up a 10-day supply of antibiotics.

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In recent weeks, PACC officials have warned that shelter is overwhelmed, announcing Friday that the kennels were "full." 46 dogs were added to the shelter, and only 32 left, PACC officials said Friday in a Facebook post.  "We currently have NO kennels available for incoming pets and will need to set up pop-up kennels today," PACC said, adding that they needed foster or adoptive homes, especially for large breed dogs.  PACC also said that they need foster homes for dogs with puppies, as well as orphaned puppies and kittens.

PACC added on Monday that shelter environments are "stressful and often crowded settings," and these conditions which pose the "greatest risk for outbreaks" of diseases like Strep zoo.

"The bacterium is known to cause abrupt outbreaks of fatal pneumonia in shelter dogs worldwide due to the confined environment and its highly contagious nature," they said.

Strep zoo can be treated with antibiotics, however, PACC officials said that "identifying infection early enough to start treatment is difficult."

There is no vaccine for the disease, and "few warning signs," they said. The onset of the disease is "typically sudden, but dogs that are infected can have symptoms, including fever, depression, vomiting, labored breathing, coughing blood, and discharge from the nose.

PACC will continue to accept emergency intakes, and anyone who needs to surrender their pet is urged to go to PACC’s Pet Support Page, and "exhaust all efforts to re-home their pet before contacting the shelter," or ask for help from other shelters.

The shelter will continue to accept pets in "medical distress," as well as aggressive pets. They will also accept pets in "any situation involving an injury to a human or animal." In an emergency, the shelter is open during its business hours: Monday to Friday, noon to 7 p.m., and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

In the case of strays, people are encouraged to try to find the owner by knocking on doors, posting up flyers, and getting the pet scanned for a microchip at a vet clinic—which is a free service.

Recent data shows that 63 percent of lost dogs in Pima County are found less than a mile from their home. Among those 16 percent are less than 400 feet from their homes, according to Human Animal Support Services’ examination of PACC data from 2019 to 2021, PACC officials said.

However, if someone finds a stray that is injured, ill, or "not friendly" they should contact the Animal Protection Services Dispatch line at 520-724-5900, and press 4.

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