TAMPA — No new dogs are being accepted at the Hillsborough County animal shelter except under emergency circumstances due to an outbreak of two new – for this area – upper respiratory viruses.
Animal Services Director Ian Hallett said at a news conference today that dogs will be accepted only if they are dangerous, sick or wounded, or have bitten someone until the virus has run its course in the kennels. No dogs will be euthanized during that period, which Hallett estimated will take about two weeks.
The viruses, which until now had not been seen in this area, were identified after some sick animals and their neighbors in the shelter, were tested by Cornell University. Shelter staff learned about the testing at Cornell after attending a symposium.
The viruses, pneumovirus and respiratory coronavirus, cause an illness similar to when a human gets the flu. The diseases are usually not deadly but the animals should be given veterinary care, including antibiotics for secondary infections, said Dr. Lisa Tipton, a veterinarian at the shelter.
Tipton said animals that show signs of respiratory distress will be quarantined. The viruses do not affect cats, and the shelter will continue to take unwanted cats.
Tipton said the two viruses are highly contagious and dog owners in the county should avoid letting their pets socialize with other dogs. If pet owners see their dogs have runny noses, watery eyes and are sneezing and coughing, they should take them to the vet, Tipton said.