Bay Area animal shelters not accepting new dogs during dog flu outbreak

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center confirm they are both dealing with dog flu outbreaks at their facilities.

Dog flu – or canine influenza – is a highly contagious respiratory disease.

On Tuesday, Pet Resource Center (PRC) staff moved all 290 dogs out of the Falkenburg Rd. facility to an offsite location as it deals with its first dog flu outbreak since 2018.

"This is the biggest operation we’ve ever had," PRC director Scott Trebatoski said Tuesday. "We're about 150% capacity, so there's no way to contain it here."

Trebatoski told FOX 13 that his team consulted with University of Florida experts, who suggested moving all the dogs out of the facility, so it can be cleaned and disinfected.

"Part of the problem is, we don't know who’s had it and who hasn't had it," Trebatoski said. "We know that it's a virus that no dogs have natural immunity to. So anything exposed will get it."

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Veterinarians said they noticed an increase in dogs that were coughing and developing nasal discharge. Recent tests confirmed that it was dog flu. Hillsborough County animal officials said 80% of dogs will experience symptoms, including cough, fever, lethargy and reduced appetite.

The PRC will be closed for deep cleaning and disinfection from Wednesday to Sunday and will reopen Monday, July 1. However, the facility won’t accept new dogs until July 15, which is also when it will resume adoptions and fosters.

Meanwhile, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay (HSTB) is dealing with a similar situation. For the first time in its 112-year history, HSTB will not be accepting dogs, beginning Wednesday and ending July 12.

"Our leadership did not make this decision lightly," HSTB CEO Sherry Silk said. "HSTB prioritizes the health of its animals above all else. Unfortunately, this is an unprecedented situation that calls for extreme and immediate action to protect dogs in Tampa Bay."

Silk said the recommendation to not accept dogs for a couple of weeks came from the University of Florida. She said her staff became concerned after one of its more than 220 dogs suddenly passed away. 

"Some dog, whether it was a stray or surrender came in and had it," Silk said. "One day they look fine, the next day they’re sometimes down in their kennels, they can’t stand up."

The non-profit is now testing all of its dogs. Despite what many may assume about isolating dogs in this situation, Silk explained "according to the experts, they say don’t. Let them mix in with all the dogs. It’s kind of like that herd health immunity."

WHile the shelter suspends intakes through July 12, Silk said it will be a difficult time for strays. She advised owners to still contact them for an influenza vaccine. 

The shelter will provide free dog food to anyone caring for strays while not accepting new dogs. Food can be picked up at the shelter between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

Silk told FOX 13 on Tuesday that they are still doing adoptions for their healthy dogs and other animals. HSTB will still take in cats, rabbits, pocket pets and exotics as space allows, since the virus is not transmissible to non-canine species. 

Pasco County Animal Services (PCAS) also suspended dog adoptions, intakes, surgeries and rescue transfers until at least July 3 "due to the presence of Canine Influenza." It's an outbreak that started earlier this month when all of its 127 dogs were exposed to the virus with 75% being symptomatic. 

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PCAS's Assistant Director Spencer Conover said things are looking up, though. So far, 24 dogs have been cleared, and 56 test results are pending. 

"We’re looking to do adoption events off site in the next few days, we’re looking to our rescue partners in the community to help get these healthy dogs out of here so that we can get our population shrunk down enough that we can start taking new dogs in again," he said.

Conover believes PCAS will resume normal operations in the next three to four weeks.

HSTB is encouraging pet owners to keep their dogs up to date on all vaccinations. The HSTB Animal Hospital is providing $20 canine influenza vaccinations to owned pets. Click here to make an appointment or call 813-870-3304. 

"The community should not panic," HSTB Director of Shelter Operations Danyelle Van Horn said. "While it should be taken seriously by pet owners, canine influenza is much more dangerous in shelter environments than in private homes because of the sheer number of animals housed together and the multiple avenues of transmission."


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