I don’t know if you have seen these headlines in your news feed lately, but if not, you are now on notice. Commercial breeders (a.k.a puppy millers) and the pet store industry (specifically, pet stores that sell animals) have found a new avenue in which to use and sell their wares (i.e., products, or in this case, puppies).
- For a Better Party, Rent Puppies (Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2015)
- Party Puppies for Hire (The Bark, July 24, 2015)
- Puppy parties are a real thing — and one happened in the TODAY studio! (The Today Show, August 12, 2015)
- Puppies for Rent? The Surprising World of Puppy Temps (Rover.com, April 15, 2015)
Yes. You are reading this right. Puppy parties.
For a fee, people can rent a whole litter of puppies for a birthday or bachelorette party.
Gee, what fun.
I suppose it really would be fun to play with a whole gaggle of puppies for a couple of hours. Who doesn’t love the smell of puppy breath? Unfortunately, what the “journalists” writing these stories, and promoting them on their television networks, failed to do was ask questions. They failed to ask where the party promoters and puppy rental operators were sourcing their puppies. I suppose no one really wants to hear that something so novel and cute could have a shady backside, do they?
“We just want the feel good story ma’am.”
Fortunately, CAPs (Companion Animal Protection Society) asked the questions the journalists did not, and what they found, at least in one case, was deeply concerning:
What David Dietz, owner of PuppyParty.com and Puppy Paradise, is neglecting to tell the media and his clients who seek puppies for children’s birthday parties, bachelorettes parties and other events, is that Puppy Party puppies come from inhumane high-volume commercial breeding facilities known as puppy mills. These mills supply puppies to Dietz’ store, Puppy Paradise – the source of the Puppy Party puppies. If a party-goer happens to fall in love with a puppy, then he or she can purchase that puppy from the store.
Not only did CAPS discover that this puppy party rental business sourced from puppy mills, but that many (if not all) of the mills they sourced from had a history animal neglect and abuse. Just take a look at some of the puppy mills sourcing David Dietz’s pet store and puppy party business:
- Gayle Duncan, of Gayle’s Country Pups in Oklahoma, was exposed by CAPS for having multiple serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. One of her mill’s employees, Gayle’s brother-in-law Jeff, admitted to running over a dog with a four-wheeler on purpose because the dog had bit him after trying to escape the pen.
- Kevin Street, one of the substandard and inhumane breeders who sold to Puppy Paradise, had a dog CAPS rescued that had signs of cattle prod burns and suffered from a painful growth that came from lying on an ongoing Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
- Dwayne Hurliman, was found to have a thousand dogs and puppies (he claimed to have around 500) in dirty, crowded and collapsing cages when he was investigated by CAPs.
- Maureen Butler, another horrible breeder, owner of PugPekinpoo-tzu in Missouri, kept her dogs in outside pens, exposed to extreme cold in the winter and hot sun in the summer. In one instance, she nonchalantly showed a CAPS investigator a puppy that had lost toes to frostbite, in what she described as a “cold day” in May.
- Betty Mings, owner Bet-Ter Kennel in Missouri, exposed dogs to the harsh Midwest winters. CAPS investigators uncovered AWA violations and witnessed numerous cages with days of fecal accumulation. Mines said that her dogs have puppies every breeding cycle and added, “I got dogs nine to 10 years old, still have seven, eight puppies.”
I’m not sure when puppy parties became a “thing”, but I hope you’ll spread the word. Puppy mills and pet store owners are looking for new streams of revenue, and they’re counting on nobody asking them any questions.
- Where do you get your puppies from? (They will lie to you and say they only use reputable breeders. Ask them for actual names, locations and phone numbers.)
- Can I speak with the breeder(s)? (They most likely will refuse this request, which should be a huge red flag, but if they do provide a number ask lots of questions of the breeder.
- How old are the puppies you use? (Anything under 8 weeks should raise tons of red flags. Puppies should not leave their mother before 8 weeks and ideally, not before 9-10 weeks in age. A puppy that is shipped across state lines younger than 8 weeks is illegal.)
- How long do you use the puppies in your puppy parties?
- What happens to the puppies when they are no longer puppies? (They will most likely lie to you on this one, but my bet is many of them are sold at the puppy parties. Buying a puppy from one of these party promoters is supporting a puppy mill and the continued abuse of the mother and father. Don’t do it.)
- How often are your puppies attending parties and how long are they exposed to a high-stress environment and forced to be handled? (This is something I would love to know. I suspect these puppies are getting overworked and stressed out frequently. A puppy that is not making money is a puppy that is of no use to these people.)
You can watch the full CAPS story here:
If the date, September 11, fell on a Friday before, I did not notice it. However, today seems like the very best time to have it fall on a Friday. Why? Because today I have the opportunity to share a video that honors the last living search and rescue dog from that day.
Bretagne was one of 300 dogs who swooped down on Manhattan to help search for people and then for remains. This is a dog who, like the other dogs of 9/11, deserves our love, honor and recognition. I hope you will find her special day as touching as I did.
Have a good day everyone.
If you get a chance, send a little wish of love to Bretagne and her handler.
Spend any time at all at a dog park or dog-centric event and you will find yourself starting to form opinions about dogs (and their owners). How a dog behaves may be a reflection of the owner, but often we assume a dog’s behavior is based on their breed.
For example, we might say the following:
- Labrador Retrievers are great family dogs and love kids.
- Golden Retrievers are friendly with everyone.
- Terriers like to dig.
- Hunting dogs, like German Shorthair Pointers and Vizslas, love to go hunting.
But, are these assumptions correct?
Science Friday, often heard on National Public Friday (NPR), explored this very topic this past February. Animal behaviorist James Serpell, was their guest. He discussed our common assumptions on dog breeds and how much of our dog’s behavior is dependent on us, their owners.
He also discussed C-BARQ, a Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire, designed to provide dog owners and professionals with standardized evaluations of canine temperament and behavior.
Take a listen. I think you will learn that breed is only part of the equation.
You can listen to the podcast here:
The battle rarely ends with one victory. There are always those opposing forces to deal with, the ones who don’t want you to succeed: factory farms, big Ag, local communities and politicians, and the ones who may not care, the always underfunded and under-motivated government agencies charged with enforcing the change.
You can work hard to close all the loopholes and to ensure that animals are being saved, but one failure along the chain of implementation and suddenly the fight takes a few steps back, or is put right back to the beginning.
Last year, when we passed the Minnesota Dog and Cat Breeder Law, most people thought we had won the fight. I think it would be more accurate to say we won ONE victory in the war against puppy mills and animal cruelty. Remember those opposing forces? They are always there, looking for ways to slow your roll. Progress is passing a law, but making that progress “stick” takes time, diligence and lots of dedication and follow-up.
As an example, take a look at who the Minnesota Board of Animal Health gave breeder licenses to this year:
Debbie Rowell of Country Pride Kennels – Debbie is the Pine River facility that was raided a couple of years ago. 130 dogs were seized in July 2013, including Maggie, my foster dog, and several other Shelties so damaged they will likely be in foster care for life. A Facebook page has been set up to keep an eye on Ms Rowell’s activities. We can’t know for sure, but given her past conviction, I suspect she will be in trouble again some day soon.
Wanda Kretzman of Clearwater Kennel, Inc. – This kennel was one of three kennels on the Humane Society of the United State’s (HSUS) Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Wanda’s kennel has had so many violations that the USDA filed an official complaint in March 2015. She even made the worst list for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in 2013. Her violations go as far back as 1997. The lovely Wanda has one of the largest puppy mills in the state (with more than 1000 dogs). Needless to say, it is hard to believe she passed an inspection by the MN Board of Animal Health. How does someone with this kind of history pass an inspection by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health? My mind is filled with theories.
John & Lyle Renner of Renner’s Kennel – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. USDA inspectors have found numerous injured dogs in their facility, including swollen red skin, eye and dental issues, damaged paws, etc. This kennel is so bad that it has made HSUS’ list numerous times. And yet, they too got a license from the MN Board of Animal Health.
Michelle Sonnenberg – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Repeated health and sanitation violations litter Michelle’s dog kenneling history. Sounds like a place you want to get a puppy from doesn’t it? You have to wonder why she refused inspectors into her facility back in April of this year. Maybe she was cleaning things up in anticipation of a visit from the MN Board of Animal Health? Hmmm… maybe so. After all, she somehow was able to get a breeder license from them. Don’t you wonder how?
(Side note: Both Michelle Sonnenberg and Renner’s Kennels sell to the Hunte Corporation which is a broker for Petland stores.)
Eighty plus breeders have received licenses thus far. They had to submit an application and go through an inspection in order to be licensed.
You can read what the inspector looks for when inspecting these facilities in the Commercial Dog or Cat Breeder Inspection Guidelines.
You’ve got to wonder how the 4 breeders above passed inspection for item number 12, which states: “Exercise. All dogs and cats must be provided the opportunity for periodic exercise, either through free choice or through a forced work program, unless exercise is restricted by a licensed veterinarian. (346.39)”
How much you want to bet Wanda Kretzman didn’t pass that part of the inspection? I can’t imagine how she is exercising 1000 dogs, but hey she got a license, she must be exercising them right?
You probably can tell that I am disappointed in the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, but what I am not is surprised. Like I said, we only won the victory, not the battle.
What the opposition doesn’t understand is that time is on our side. More people are getting knowledgeable about puppy mills and how they work. Petlands, and other pets stores like them, are failing (the Petland in Shakopee closed last year and I am hoping the St Paul store isn’t far behind).
And, as more people get educated on what these places are like, they are also taking action. When people realized that Debbie Rowell was back in business, her Yelp profile and Better Business Bureau status took a hit. (If you think Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil, is an aberration, think again.) People are getting involved and when they do, they take action.
So, the fight goes on. The battle is not yet won. More work needs to be done.
Want to help?
- Share the information about this and other substandard kennels
- Educate others that pet store puppies come from these kennels
- Encourage friends to adopt
- Contact legislators to support legislation with tougher penalties
- Educate others about what responsible breeders do and don’t do
- Volunteer with or donate to Animal Folks MN & share their posts
- Volunteer with Minnesotans Exposing Petland & share their posts
- Report substandard breeding kennels to the authorities
- Do not shop at pet stores that sell animals of any kind
- Support pet stores that support adoption
- Contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health: Phone: (651) 296-2942
If you’ve read my blog, then you know that I am a big believer in dog training and helping people to better understand their dogs through dog body language. You probably also know that I am also a huge supporter of animal shelters and animal rescues.
The biggest issue many rescue organizations face is making a dog more adoptable. Training is key to making this happen. How a dog behaves is one of the biggest factors that impacts whether a dog will be adopted. It is a key factor in keeping an adopted dog in their new home.
Today, I would like to introduce you to someone who has a novel new idea that I hope will become a model nationwide. Fetch-for-Fosters is the brainchild of dog trainer Katie Grillaert of Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. It is a new program focused on proactively addressing a dog’s training needs while he is still in the shelter or in a foster home; before he is adopted, and where needed, working with the adopter to ensure his forever home really is his home for life.
Below is my interview with Katie Grillaert.
What is Fetch-for-Fosters?
Fetch-for-Fosters is a social entrepreneurship initiative, meaning that we are using business methods to try and solve a social problem.
Our vision is to shape and support a rescue community that both understands and prioritizes the value of training. I’d really love to see a trend toward proactive dog training, rather than reactive.
Fetch-for-Fosters provides low-cost training and behavior services to rescues and shelters in order to facilitate the adoption of pets; as well as to help them stay in their new home. We prioritize education and promote training techniques that are effective, ethical, and that nurture the human-animal bond.
Our Fetch-for-Fosters staff are talented trainers who have been accepted into a training/behavior internship with Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. The program allows them to see a diverse range of dogs and students as they work toward their own goals. For example, one of our trainers is also a veterinary student with a special interest in shelter medicine and behavior. I mentor the trainers through this entire process, so we maintain a high quality of service for all of our rescues.
The program is new, but if things continue to go well I am excited about the growth goals that I have been brainstorming… but I’ll just have to leave you with that teaser for now.
I love the idea of helping a dog to stay in its home. What motivated you to create Fetch for Fosters?
My first dog, Petra, was a rescued Belgian Malinois. She was my shadow. She read my mind. I was heartbroken when I had to euthanize her due to serious behavioral issues due to extremely poor breeding and poor puppyhood socialization. Her sacrifice is what drove me deeper into behavior modification and rescue. Every time I can help another dog, I can honor her a little bit.
I have been fostering and doing volunteer training for a long time now, including through the birth of my business Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. As the business grew, I continued to volunteer, but found myself with limited time for volunteer work. (This saying is so true: “Entrepreneurs: The only people who work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks.”). I wanted a way to formalize giving back to my community, but also to make it sustainable.
I’m fascinated with the way for-profit companies can provide social benefit. For example, Grameen Danone Foods Ltd. created a fortified yogurt for malnourished children in Bangladesh, improving health outcomes and creating local jobs. They are a sustainable business, but do not return any profits to their shareholders – it is all reinvested in the social business. (http://socialinnovator.info/ways-supporting-social-innovation/market-economy/social-business-partnerships/partnerships-betweeen/grameen-danone-partnership-b) This is my current answer for my local community, in my area of expertise and passion.
How does the program work?
Our service contract is with dogs in foster care – the actual rescue. We will provide email/phone support when the dog is adopted so that we can advise new owners on what work we did with the dog, and how this relates to the settling-in process. In fact, we’d love to disclose this to adopters before they even adopt the dog – that piece is up to the rescue, as we are not involved in the adoption process.
If adopters have questions beyond the scope of work that we already did, or beyond the initial two weeks, we might refer them to our training business or another local trainer. This is for their benefit – there is a real importance to the trainer being able to observe the dog in its new home, form a connection with the dog’s people, and make sure that the trainer is getting the full picture before making a training program. This avoids wasting time and money (at best), or the behaviors worsening.
What kinds of issues do you generally see?
Adolescence is a frequent time that people decide to re-home their “annoying” dog, so we see a lot of regular goofy teenage behavior. First-time fosters do quite well with a session or two to help them understand how to communicate with their youngster, and how to develop good behavior.
Separation distress and leash reactivity are both quite common as well, and those are things that we want to address immediately so that they don’t become big and costly – they rarely resolve on their own, and in fact they can get worse quite quickly.
It’s also not uncommon for us to work with fearful dogs, usually puppy mill dogs, to help them conquer their fears, and especially to help their fosters understand how to support them.
We are also able to address any training issue – house training, manners, puppy issues, polite walking, chewing, digging, grooming, barking, and so on.
We can also offer limited services for fear, aggression, and anxiety. Hopefully most dogs in rescue will not have serious fear or aggression, but sometimes these issues pop up when the dog has already been accepted into the rescue. We can help the rescue address management and safety concerns with the foster, and give our professional assessment of the issue. Long-term behavior modification assistance may be available, but this takes a large commitment from the rescue.
Do you provide the rescue updates on the dogs you work with?
We will disclose personal information upon request if the legal owner of the dog has given us permission to do so. In general, it is the rescue’s responsibility to follow-up with owners and track the progress of the dogs they have placed.
What is the cost, who pays, and what does it cover?
I want this program to be sustainable – helping my community for a long time. If your organization – even your nonprofit – could not function without some key people, then I think you should be putting things in place to make sure those people stay happy and available to you. That’s my goal. Therefore my trainers for Fetch-for-Fosters get reimbursed for their travel and time spent with the dogs. Because they are paid, there will always be space on their schedule for foster dogs. I think this will be fundamental to the program’s success.
We directly invoice rescues for their training sessions. A $45/session for a training issue (this is something I think we should highlight) with my regular Fetch-for-Fosters staff, includes:
- Approximately, one hour with the trainer.
- Our summary of the session and homework for the foster family, which is shared with the foster and the rescue.
- Two weeks of email/phone support with the adopter once the dog is adopted. (We’ll also provide follow-up support to the foster family, but we may ask that we see the dog in-person again if there are many questions, or if they are complex.)
Most rescues will only need these regular training sessions, as that is the category where most adoptable dogs will fall. However, we do offer behavior consultations for $75/session, and we’ll staff an experience behavior consultant for this. Often behavior consultations need at least one follow-up, if not more.
Our fees allow us to purchase insurance and to pay our professionals for their time. The other overhead costs are supported by Fetch Dog Training and Behavior, which is one major reason why it makes sense for me to operate this as a social initiative of my business, rather than a non-profit – it keeps our costs significantly lower.
Donations for training, submitted directly to the rescue, are tax-deductible. We do accept online donations to our program, but these are not tax-deductible. Online donations may be earmarked for a specific rescue, or may enter our general pool and distributed as a scholarship.
Do you only work with foster dogs?
Our work is entirely with dogs in foster or shelter care. We support adopted dogs through their two-week transition to the new home if we have already provided them services during their time in rescue, so that the adopter understands exactly what work we’ve done with the dog and how that may relate to helping their dog settle into his new home.
We do not work with “owned” dogs; we’d refer someone to our business or another local dog trainer. I believe that training is a really important part of owning a dog, and should be planned for just as are veterinary and food expenses. Good trainers spend a lot of time on their education and professional development, and deserve every penny that they make. If they couldn’t get paid for their work, they wouldn’t be able to get really good at their craft – and that would be a loss for everyone, foster or not.
How does a rescue organization contact you if they want to be a rescue partner or want you to help one of their dogs?
Any interested rescue can send an email to email@example.com and we’ll provide our program information right away. There is no cost for rescues to become a rescue partner. By becoming a partner, they are able to schedule our services whenever they need them.
We’re able to do some special services for our partners as well, such as running a group class for their foster dogs. So far, we’re doing this on a case-by-case basis, brainstorming together to address a particular need.
It’s been a lot of fun for me to work with the rescues to see what we can accomplish together, and we are all excited about the potential for growth – which, of course, is how many dogs and families we can positively impact.
You can learn more about Fetch-for-Fosters on their Q & A call this week, on Wednesday, July 8, from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central time . To join the call, go to their Facebook event page by clicking here.
Katie Grillaert is a professional trainer and behavior consultant specializing in work with fearful and aggressive dogs. She holds two certifications from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA) and is also a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She is pursuing a degree in the Interdisciplinary Master’s Programme in Human-Animal Interactions at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
I often try to remember back to when I adopted my first shelter dog. I was so uninformed and inexperienced back then. I had never adopted a dog before. I had absolutely no idea what to expect with an adult dog, especially not one who had a whole history behind her that I didn’t even know about. I probably made a lot of mistakes and bad decisions in those early days (I am sure of it).
What I didn’t know then, but know now is that for a rescue or shelter dog, the first few days and weeks in their new home are risky ones. They are at the mercy of their new human to make the right decisions for them. One mistake, and the dog could end up back at the shelter, or worse, euthanized for a serious mistake that could have been prevented if the human had made a different choice.
That last part is what I was thinking today when I read a story on my local station’s website – “Brainerd Woman Suffers ‘Serious’ Injuries from Dog Bite”. If what the dog owner said was true, and he actually did just adopt the dog who bit the woman in the story, then he just put his new dog’s life in danger. Most likely, when he and his dog are found, his dog will be quarantined, and then euthanized. One mistake. One life.
I don’t want make pet adoption seem so serious and dire, but it kind of is. We can make a lot of survivable mistakes with our newly adopted pets, but there are a few that could place their lives, and others, in danger. Knowing what not to do can be the difference between life and death.
Here are a few things NOT to do when you adopt a rescue or shelter dog.
- Take him to a pet store – A dog in a shelter environment is already stressed out. Taking him from one stressful place to another stressful place, with a complete stranger (yes, that would be you), is a recipe for disaster. A stressed dog may do things they might not do in a another time and place. I remember one dog that was adopted from our shelter and taken immediately to a pet store to purchase some things for him. He ended up biting a child and as a result, lost his life. I know another dog who was adopted right off the rescue transport and taken to a pet store. He escaped the car and was missing for several days. When he was found he was almost 20 miles away from where he was lost. It almost cost him his life. Luckily, a stranger came upon his dehydrated body and saved him.
- Take her to the dog park – Not only has your new dog not had a chance to bond with you, but even more importantly, she doesn’t even know you yet. I still remember a couple who brought their new dog straight from the animal shelter to the dog park and ended up spending a couple of hours trying to catch her. She might have been having a ball, but they were not. Luckily, their dog was not aggressive, but many people have brought an adopted dog to the dog park who was. To assume a dog you just adopted is not dog aggressive or will not harm another dog is not only naive, but dangerous. Get to know your dog before introducing her to other dogs and people. You may also want to work on training her to come when called before letting her off-leash in a dog park.
- Invite friends and family over to meet her right away – People often want to show off their new dog right after they adopt them, but this can be a huge mistake. Strangely enough, dogs are very much like us humans in that they need time to get settled into a new place. Imagine how overwhelmed you would feel if your new neighbors came over and started making themselves at home while you are still unpacking from the move. Pretty uncomfortable, right? So imagine being a dog and having complete strangers invade your space and touch you and get in your face when you haven’t even had a chance to get settled into your new home. Not fun. It’s also a recipe for disaster. One mistake, one dog bite later, and you may have a dead newly adopted dog.
- Let him off-leash in a public place – See #2 above. No, seriously, why would you let a dog you don’t know off-leash in an unconfined area? You don’t even know if he likes squirrels or people or other dogs. If you have a dog like Jasper (my Sheltie), then you might find out that he likes to herd runners and bikers and skateboarders and…. yeah, you get my point. Once you let a new dog off-leash, you have no control. Not only do you risk him getting lost, but you also risk being liable to the danger he might do to another person or dog (see the news story I mentioned above).
- Leave him out in your yard unattended – This one might sound silly, but I really cannot emphasize it enough – Do Not Leave Your New Dog Unattended In Your Backyard. The riskiest time for a new dog to become lost is in those first few days and weeks in a new home. Your new dog is probably stressed and scared and disoriented. One strange noise or sudden movement or scary incident and he can be gone in a flash, right over the fence. Being in the yard with him tells him he is not alone. It also ensure that he won’t have a chance to dig under a fence or look for an escape route, and if he does, you have an opportunity to redirect him before he makes it out.
Most rescue and shelter dogs are not there because they were bad dogs or had behavioral issues. Most are there because someone had to move or was going through a life change that required them to give up their pet. They need time to adjust to all the changes.
And while these dogs are awesome pets and companions, they also have the potential to bite if backed into a corner or placed in a stressful situation (every dog has the potential to bite when placed in a stressful position with no way out). It is up to us, as their new owners, to protect them. It is up to us to do right by them. Spend time getting to know your new dog, and let him get to know you too. Before introducing him to all the new wonderful things in your world, take the time to bond. You have time. You have the rest of your lives to do all those cool things you want to do together. Why rush it?
On Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend an online seminar put on by Maddie’s Fund. I was already interested in the topic, but expected to learn little new as I had already been reading up on the topic on my own. As it turns out, I learned a heck of a lot more information in the seminar than in the newspapers. Go figure.
The topic? What Animal Shelters Need to Know About the Canine Influenza Outbreak. The seminar was presented by Dr. Sandra Newbury from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program. Dr. Newbury has been working closely with shelters since the outbreak and was able to share some details that the media has missed in their rush to join the hype.
She shared some of what shelter workers who have been dealing with after the spread of this virus, not only in the shelters in Chicago, but also in the surrounding areas and states. Wow. I cannot imagine the stress. They deserve our support. What they are dealing with is incredibly overwhelming. I imagine they are exhausted after managing through this for the past two months. They are not only caring for hundreds of sick cats and dogs, but also worrying about exposing their own pets to this virus. Imagine how scary it must be for them.
You can get a copy of the presentation handout here, but I thought I would share a few of the things I learned.
- The virus currently making dogs sick in Chicago (H3N2) originated in Korea, China and Thailand. It is suspected it came from the Avian influenza and transferred to cats and dogs. In Korea, China and Thailand, the virus also infected cats, who experienced a significant mortality rate when infected (something we have not seen here).
- Despite what we may think, there is no proof that the virus came in with a dog imported from these countries to the United States. They may never know how it made it to this country.
- The virus did not originate in a shelter, but started with one dog living in a home. Contraction of the virus most likely started in a training class, vet clinic, or doggy daycare.
- When it did hit animal shelters in Chicago, it hit them like a tidal wave. Example: One or two dogs started showing symptoms on Monday. By Tuesday, ten dogs were sick and by Friday, shelters were seeing 50-100 dogs sick. In CACC, they saw 200 dogs sick with the virus.
- Most of the dogs have had mild to moderate respiratory disease. Very few that have died, but some have developed pneumonia and needed additional treatment.
- Symptoms usually start with a cough and nasal discharge. Dogs sickened with this virus seem to feel worse than the dogs infected with the known virus, H3N8.
- This virus differs from the one we have previously seen in the United States (H3N8) in that it has a longer “shedding” period (the virus can still be shed by the formerly sick dog long after they seem well, thus making them still contagious after 19 days).
- This has had a huge impact on shelters and shelter workers. Because of the longer shedding period, shelters have had to stop or slow down the release of dogs to rescues and they have had to turn some dogs away in order to avoid infecting more dogs, sometimes diverting incoming dogs to other uninfected shelters. They are trying to be very, very careful to not spread the virus.
- Because this virus is new to the United States, many shelters were placing dogs up for adoption after seven days, when they appeared well, but they soon discovered that other dogs were getting infected when exposed to these dogs even though they (the formerly sick dogs) were well.
- Dr. Newbury said they are now recommending that dogs be isolated for at least 21 days after they were first diagnosed to prevent spread of the disease, but she cautioned that they are not yet positive that 21 days will be long enough, because they thought it would be fine after 14 days and discovered it was not.
- If a rescue or animal shelter chooses to adopt out a dog who was sick and no longer has symptoms, they should be apply two rtPCR tests and get a negative result from both before allowing the dog to be adopted, and even then, they should gain agreement from the adopter that they will keep them isolated for the full 21 days (no dog parks, no training classes, etc.).
- Shelters in Chicago are developing plans to release some dogs from their shelters to avoid an increase in euthanasia, but they are giving rescue groups very, very specific instructions on holding the dogs in isolation and away from other dogs. They do not want to move dog to an area that does not have influenza already.
- Sick dogs are not turning over to recovering dogs as quickly, but they are starting to see more recovered dogs than sick now. That is very good news.
While I still think this is a very serious outbreak, I feel better knowing more of the details. The speed at which this virus spreads and the fact that the shedding period is so long should be a concern for rescues as they import dogs from these sates. They may want to avoid the ones where cases already been confirmed for now.
Kudos to all the shelter workers dealing with this and trying to make sure it is contained. You have a tough job on normal days. This is above and beyond what is “normal.”