Volunteer Layne Gregory pets a dog Tuesday at Pasco County Animal Services in Land O' Lakes. The shelter, which was closed for nearly a month due to a parvovirus outbreak, is offering free adoptions through Saturday. Pasco County residents must pay a mandatory $10.00 pet license fee. CHRIS URSO/STAFF
LAND O' LAKES - Christina Vasquez Haakenson was ready for a real, live pet to hold.
For weeks now, she's gazed at the photos of adoptable dogs on the Pasco County Animal Services' Facebook page.
That was the only option for Haakenson and the rest of the public as the dog adoption area of the shelter was closed for nearly a month due to a parvovirus outbreak. Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus transmitted through dog feces and vomit.
Her wait ended Tuesday after Pasco Animal Services reopened its dog shelter for the first time since June 26.
"As of Saturday afternoon, we worked through what we call the incubation period where if there would have been any additional cases of parvo, it would have delayed us reopening," said Suzanne Salichs, assistant administration for public services. "But since there haven't been new cases for over two weeks, we decided to go ahead and begin the process because it is a process to get all the dogs bathed, all the areas sanitized and cleaned appropriately."
Salichs said during the nearly monthlong process, 10 dogs infected with the virus had to be euthanized.
The shelter used specific guidelines set by the Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Association of Shelter Veterinarians to clean and sanitize the facility.
Animal Services estimates a little more than $1,500 was spent in testing and ridding the shelter of parvovirus.
To celebrate the reopening, the shelter also held a Dog Day Out where five dogs were taken to the West Pasco Government Center in New Port Richey in the hopes they, too, would be adopted.
On Saturday, the shelter will host a free adoption event, dubbed Dogs Independence Day, from noon to 5 p.m. at the shelter, 19640 Dogpatch Lane in Land O' Lakes.
On Tuesday, Candy Goulet was searching for a pet to train as a service dog. She has diabetes and wants to train a dog how to detect her drop in blood sugar levels.
She trained her husband's dog, Rogue, a poodle, to do the same, but she doesn't want to overwork her. She said dogs are able to smell the change in breath and detect a drop.
Her husband, William, was hit by an improvised explosive device during his second deployment to Iraq. He suffered brain damage from the explosion and has had a service dog for a year. The dog has alerted Candy Goulet when her blood sugar gets too low.
"She's working overtime," Candy Goulet said. "She's working for him and working for me. When he's having a bad day and I'm having the same thing, she's like, 'Who do I go to?' So it's confusing for her."
The pair volunteer often with K-9s for Veterans, an organization in Tampa.
"Instead of going and buying from a breeder, you're spending thousands of dollars on a dog," Candy Goulet said. "These dogs need a home, too. I guess, in a way, I rescue it and it rescues me."
David Carwile said he visits the shelter on a regular basis to search for pit bulls to rescue. He has three of his own - Remmie, Kelly and Prue - and he thinks it is unfair the reputation that breed of dog has.
"When people mistreat and neglect pits, I think it's ridiculous," Carwile said. "To judge a dog just because it's a pit bull and to say it's a dangerous breed, I think it's not right."
Agnes Rodenbach is an assistant principal in Hillsborough County and has volunteered since April at Pasco Animal Services. She bathes and grooms the dogs, tying a bandanna around their neck when she's done.
"I just feel like they feed my soul," Rodenbach said as she washed a white, pit bull terrier mix she calls Cowboy.
She blames the economy for the influx of dogs that come into the shelter.
Owners "can't keep up with the pet visit bills or the food," Rodenbach said. "A lot of times, it's just the economics, I think. They just have to choose between feeding their family or whatever it is, paying a bill, versus feeding an animal.
"But the staff here, they're awesome. Obviously, they don't do it for money. Dogs can teach us a lot."