Wake Co Pound Experiences Lifesaving Increase, Not Sure How They Like It

Last month, the pound in Wake Co, NC took a healthy looking dog named Sassy to a local TV studio for a Pet of the Day feature.  Then they brought her back to the pound and killed her because they said she had a cough.  The public was outraged and as a result, the pound said it would temporarily try a new policy:  treat coughing dogs and allow others to pull them for treatment.  The result?

For the first time in eight months, the number of dogs adopted from the Wake County Animal Center is higher than the number killed, officials said Monday.

Well say, whaddaya know?  Maybe there really is something to this whole no kill thing after all.  Not so fast says shelter director Dennis McMichael:

The shelter is still studying the effects of suspending the kill policy before deciding whether to make it permanent, he said.

Epidemiologists and veterinarians are being consulted to determine what the euthanasia policy for upper respiratory infections should be, he said.

I’m not an epidemiologist or a vet but I just conducted a 25 second study of the effects of suspending the kill-everything-that-coughs policy and it appears that the effect was the shelter turning around its terrible kill stats for the first time in 8 months.  Therefore:  Success!

I also spied with my layman’s eyes another tidbit:

An average of three dogs a day come down with an upper respiratory infection at the shelter.

Wake Co took in 6347 dogs in 2010.  That’s a lot of dogs – about 17 per day, every day of the year – but 3 dogs coming down with a cough every day seems like a lot too.  What do you think?

19 thoughts on “Wake Co Pound Experiences Lifesaving Increase, Not Sure How They Like It

  1. Unfortunately a fact of ilfe in most of the big impounds where many dogs are concentrated together. Almost all of the dogs we pull out of the central valley impounds/shelters in California come down with kennel cough within a week of arriving there and just about the time we’re ready to pull them out.

    Vaccination upon arrival does no good; the dogs are exposed as soon as they arrive and before the vaccination can take effect, and the bordatella vaccine is only good against certain strains (just like human flu virus vaccine is only good against certain strains). Kennel cough in dogs is like a cold or flu in people – highly contagious, some strains worse than others, some dogs more susceptible than others.

    Fortunately, state law in CA mandates that 501(c)(3) rescues can pull dogs (or cats, rabbits, etc.) even with URIs instead of the facilities just killing them, but if rescues aren’t willing to take them, the dogs are put down, as they won’t adopt out an ill dog out to the public.

    Most of our impounds/shelters do a pretty decent job of keeping things clean, but keeping airborne viruses like “kennel cough” from spreading in a kennel environment just isn’t possible, anymore than it would be trying to keep it from spreading throughout an office or school. So it’s not quite as simple as it sounds.

    But the willingness for other states to allow killing over common and easily-cured illnesses is reprehensible.

    1. i don’t agree with you. Correction- i don’t agree with part of what you said.
      We take in 30,000 animals every year (across 5 locations)- probably a third of those are dogs (so about 2x as many dogs as the shelter in the article sees). And we certainly aren’t seeing massive amounts of kennel cough sweeping through the shelter.
      Bordetella vaccination is important- yes some dogs will still break with the illness before the vx takes effect, but some won’t- and then they’re significantly less likely to break with it a week later when they’re re-exposed. And some dogs have previous immunity to kennel cough- the vx will help kick that immunity into gear again. Also- vaccinating for Bordetella in your dog population helps it from spreading to your cat population, as Bordetella is zoonotic from dogs to cats.
      Basic disease control will help keep kennel cough under control- vaccination at arrival (or even better- prior to arrival if you’re receiving animals from other locations- this is where we see the majority of our kennel cough popping up), isolation from resident population, isolation of sick animals from healthy animals, lots of handwashing and cleaning to avoid fomite transmission, and lots of items to make the stay less stressful (soft classical music, exercise, soft beds, toys, and treats to relieve boredom). Stress alone can have a HUGE impact on whether an animal breaks with Kennel Cough or not (that goes double for cats and URI too).
      I think it’s easy to say ‘kennel cough is a way of life’ in large shelter populations, but as soon as you decide to accept that ‘fact’ then that means you stop trying to prevent it from becoming the status quo in your shelter.
      As if this exact moment (right before our incoming and adoption opens for the day) i have 30 dogs in my kennels. And only 1 has kennel cough. It can be done.

      But euthanizing for kennel cough… there’s no reason for that

      1. That’s wonderful, Anne! I wish I could say my experience from a rescuer’s standpoint was the same as yours, maybe some day it will be. Maybe the ancient, overcrowded shelters/impounds we pull dogs from haven’t been diligent enough to be successful at preventing widespread kennel cough. None of them have had much in the way of success in preventing widespread kennel cough so far, due in a large part to serious lack of funding, more than likely.

        I’m glad to hear there are shelters who do right by the animals they take in. Unfortunately, that’s not the norm around here for the local impounds in the poorest agricultural regions with some of the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates in the state and the nation. We still have occasional outbreaks of distemper that travel up the valley from southern CA via Mexico, and parvo is a common and ongoing problem. Guess it all depends on your location.

      2. I do not know what area of the country you are in but the NYCACC-New York City Animal Care & Control euthanizes dogs with kennel cough-nasal & occular discharge all the time. Out of 21 dogs on the To Be Destroyed List for Thursday, 16 had kennel cough!

  2. Both of my cats I adopted with pretty nasty upper respiratory infections. Flair’s name for the first weekend was Snuffulufagus and Pigglet. It’s a part of life and once on meds they were fine within a day or two, nothing worth killing over. Although the one vet I took Flair to (not my regular vet) told me she had herpes and that left untreated it would turn into clamidia. Yeah I was nervous till I googled herpes in cats and realized she had a cold. Such a relief my new kitteh isn’t a little tramp.

    1. If your Flair has herpes flare-ups – in some cats, like my Cueball, it can become a chronic condition – lysine supplements really do work to reduce frequency & severity.

      1. we tried lysine for over a year in our shelter- every cat got a little bit every day. We didn’t see any improvement in our URI numbers, but glad to hear it can be helpful for chronic sufferers

      2. Ann, my vet is equivocal about it too, and the actual studies are all over the map. So there’s no good evidence for it, only anecdotal claims like mine.

        It’s certainly worked like a charm for my Cueball. The frequency of his flares had skyrocketed after he had major surgery about a year and a half ago, but after starting the lysine in May, he’s not had one. It’s the only change to his routine I’ve made. Mind, he is on two other meds, furosemide and B-12, I’ve no idea if that’s at issue. And he’s only one cat, a Sphynx at that. Sphynx reactions to many meds are – idiosyncratic. Or weird, as my vet says.

      3. I rescued Celie from a local shelter when she was 5 months old. I had her spayed right away. A couple months after her spay I took her to the vet for some sores on her vulva. The vet said she had herpes. That was the one and only time I ever saw the sores. That was 4 1/2 years ago. I never thought about this until now. Does she still have herpes? And what about her neutered brother? He was also neuter right away.

  3. I wonder how much the studies will cost. They could use the money to pay for antibiotics for kennel cough instead of the studies!

  4. Antibiotics might help some, but antibiotics only work on the secondary bacterial infection – which helps prevent the virus from turning into bronchitis, but doesn’t stop the viral infection. We put all our dogs on doxycycline the minute we get them out, but they still have to run the 7-10 day course for the virus.

    Their comments about a “study” sound like weasel words to get out of making a decision that means they might have to change their policies, heaven forbid.

  5. Ya know, it’s REALLY inconvenient when Little Johnny comes home from school with a cough and sniffles he caught from some other little rugrat, whose irresponsible parents let him out of the house like that, but I think those “shelters” are on to something–next time some kid turns up with a cough/cold/flu, etc–“Off with his head!!”

    That would really cut down on the problem of kids catching contagious diseases in school and spreading it around to everyone else in the family, and just think how much $$ the country would save on medicines–probably enough to solve the entire US Budget crisis!!!

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