CAPA Modified – Parvo is Not a License for Shelters to Kill

Just as it is unfair to punish a shelter dog based on breed, so it is unethical to kill shelter pets based on the name of a disease.  In this post, I’m talking about canine parvovirus but the statement can apply to other diseases as well.  Euthanasia to end the suffering of medically hopeless pets must be based upon the veterinary prognosis, not just the diagnosis of disease.

I was recently excited to learn that the No Kill Advocacy Center’s model legislation piece, the Companion Animal Protection Act (CAPA) has been modified and the following provision removed from the document:

(2) Symptomatic dogs with confirmed cases of parvovirus or cats with confirmed cases of panleukopenia may be euthanized without delay, upon a certification made in writing and signed by a veterinarian licensed to practice medicine in this state that the prognosis is poor even with supportive care. Such certification shall be made available for free public inspection for no less than three years;

Nathan Winograd of the No Kill Advocacy Center explained that the language was removed in order “to move away from disease-based to prognosis-based legislation”.  I fully support this change.

Parvo is preventable and treatable and every animal shelter has an obligation to both prevent and treat this disease.  Parvo in shelters is prevented through the practice of vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake, good housing practices and standard disease prevention cleaning protocols.  The disease is further prevented by ensuring the community’s dog owners have easy access to low cost vaccinations for their pets.

Treatment options for parvo dogs include in-house care if sufficient resources exist to provide isolation and appropriate veterinary care.  If the facility is not equipped to provide treatment, parvo dogs may be transferred to another shelter with appropriate facilities or to a private veterinary clinic.  Donations may be solicited from the public if necessary.  The media can help in educating the public and spreading the word about the shelter’s efforts to save lives.  The days of blanket killing of shelter dogs for parvo or exposure to the disease are over.

Killing dogs who have tested positive for parvo without providing treatment is unacceptable.  Killing dogs who have not been tested or treated, who have been “diagnosed” by someone other than a veterinarian, who are asymptomatic but have been exposed or who are merely “suspected” of having the disease is also unacceptable.  What are your local shelter’s protocols for handling parvo dogs?

Austin Pets Alive has a ward set up for parvo dogs, run by volunteers.  The save rate is approximately 85% and dogs are usually back on their paws after a week.  Disease free dogs are then put on the adoption floor so they can find loving homes and live normal, happy lives.  How does that compare to your local shelter’s parvo protocols?

Shelters who fail to vaccinate all animals prior to or immediately upon intake are failing to prevent the spread of disease.  Shelters who fail to utilize standard disease prevention cleaning protocols and/or maintain good housing practices are failing to prevent the spread of disease.  These same shelters are often the ones who kill based on disease (or suspicion of disease) instead of veterinary prognosis and then blame the public for failing to vaccinate their pets.

All shelters need to bring their parvo protocols in line with current veterinary standards.  Prevention and treatment are not luxuries.  They are the minimum that every shelter pet is entitled to and the least we should expect from our municipal facilities.

Thank you to the No Kill Advocacy Center for modifying CAPA to reflect veterinary advances in the diagnosis and treatment of parvo and the duty of shelters to meet those standards.  No disease diagnosis, exposure or suspicion should be an instant authorization to kill shelter pets.  Further evaluation by a veterinarian is always appropriate and in most canine parvo cases, treatment is likely to be successful.

Further information:

Free webinar by Dr. Ellen Jefferson on the parvo dogs ward at Austin Pets Alive.  Type “Ellen Jefferson” in the search box and tick the “show past sessions” box to bring up the one hour webinar titled “Treating Parvo”.

Controlling Parvo:  Real Life Scenarios by Dr. Kate Hurley

Disinfection 102:  Beyond Cage Cleaning by Dr. Kate Hurley

Redefining Vaccination on Intake – Maddie’s Fund

17 thoughts on “CAPA Modified – Parvo is Not a License for Shelters to Kill

  1. I am sending this on to my local humane society. The director there is working hard to make some good changes for the animals. Not there yet, but making progress.

  2. Reading this really makes me realize how lucky my dog was. He came into the shelter with parvo but was actually treated. I have the papers recording the progress of his treatment and mood. Even though he was “depressed and vomiting” he still had the chance to get better and find a family to take care of him.

  3. I applaud the decision to add this to CAPA. In our Shelter the Parvo survival rate is above 90%. We do not treat Parvo dogs in our Shelter (we don’t have our own clinical area), we take them to a Vet. Parvo itself is a quiet interesting disease. There are different Parvo strings which work different in each dog breed and age group. It also needs to be pointed out that the vaccination is not a 100% protection from Parvo, I would rate vaccination as 99% protection. I have seen cases where dogs got sick with vaccination history and I know of one dog that died on Parvo despite the fact he was vaccinated. There is a difference if the dog has direct contact or in-direct contact with the virus. In that one case, a person had the Parvo virus on the shoes, went home and his dog licked the shoes. On the other hand, we had a case of a dog testing positive for Parvo without showing hardly any symptoms. He had diarrhea once and that was it. We did quarantine him for 2 weeks to make sure he wouldn’t transfer the virus.
    We do our own test for Parvo and it has become a habit that as soon we see a dog with diarrhea we test it for Parvo just to make sure. In most cases it is negative but early detection of Parvo is a big plus for survival success.

  4. Yes, my concern is how many non-vets diagnose ALL THE DAMN TIME for diseases without any…you know…diagnostics tools.

    And then we have vets like at MAS who “diagnose” on sight without any…you know…diagnostics.

    1. We use a snap test in our shelter. Not that expensive and very easy to do. I can not understand why a shelter would not do it.

      1. Oh Peter, I’m very sure there are a lot of things other shelters do (or don’t do) that you cannot understand. I hope someday that they all come up to the standards of your shetler…

      2. I wouldn’t want to put our shelter up as a role model, we just use a lot of common sense in our daily work ;-)

      3. Common sense and compassion – surprisingly rare qualities in too many shelters.

  5. I’m not sure why Parvo is treated like such a dread disease these days. Obviously it can be very dangerous and it can spread rapidly. But as a vet tech I saw so many dogs with parvo survive. In fact I can only remember two out of many dozens who actually died. And this is with just basic supporting care.

    Dogs with parvo absolutely need to be separated and strict protocols need to be maintained so it doesn’t spread. But killing a dog JUST because it tests positive is just convenience killing again. And killing all dogs who MAY have been exposed is madness.

  6. PAWS for Life in Pueblo , CO had a great plan, the first was a sign “sick dog-do not touch ” on the kennel gate. When that didnt work they reverted to isolation and lots of duct tape to use old carpet to cover the kennel.
    I completely agree with your post and thank you for all the information links etc:)

  7. “We do our own test for Parvo and it has become a habit that as soon we see a dog with diarrhea we test it for Parvo just to make sure. In most cases it is negative but early detection of Parvo is a big plus for survival success.”

    Question: if a dog/puppy was given shots on intake and then later showed signs of Parvo and was tested. Wouldn’t the test show positive even if it didn’t have Parvo because of the shot? How does that work?

    1. Dr. Kate Hurley (linked in the post) says:

      > Weak false positives may also reportedly occur due to recent vaccination. > However, this is likely uncommon, particularly with the Idexx brand SNAP > test[6 , 7 > ]. In general, positive results should be taken seriously even in > recently vaccinated dogs. >

    2. According to IDEXX –

      Their snap test does not show positive for recently vaccinated animals.

    3. Joni, a dog can have been exposed to Parvo but will test negative as long the dog doesn’t show any symptoms. It can take up to 7 days from the time a dog was exposed to Parvo untik the first symptoms show. During this 7 days the dog still will test negative. That is why you should treat every puppy that is coming to the shelter as a stray, as a dog with Parvo. If a puppy comes to the shelter it will be vaccinated but also the vaccination will take 7 days to fully protect the dog. So, if a dog was exposed to Parvo a day before he comes to the shelter, the vaccination is actually too late and it is too early for the Parvo test since it most likely will come back negative. That is why Parvo is so dangerous and you always should treat a new incoming dog as a dog with Parvo.

      1. Peter, it has been our experience here that dogs have tested false positive and infected dogs have tested negative.

        I am glad that this was reposted… we went through another outbreak this past spring and I washopeful that our cooperative efforts with the city’s Animal Services would result in improved sanitation and cleaning. The city did start vaccinating all incoming puppies under 1 year old.

        And then this summer rolled around and we had yet another distemper/parvo outbreak… The city sent out a press release that didn’t get much coverage but didn’t post it at the shelter. To make matter’s worse the organization contracted to perform adoptions for the city, quit pulling dogs to take to their shelter but kept adopting out to the public from the Animal Services. When members of the public contacted them regarding sick dogs their response was to bring them back to euthanize them and pick out another one. This organization killed a litter because a puppy turned up positive and killed another because a puppyturned up poisitive for that deadly giardia disease! Oh… and the shelter doing all this killing and no treating is a…wait for it… No Kill Shelter! And they publicly claim to subscribe to the APA! Protocols.

        And during this time, because we were not aware of the problem, we pulled or adopted (Yes, to get select dogs we have to adopt to boost the city’s numbers and the Non-Profit’s pockets) 9 dogs. Out of the 9 we pulled 4 were diagnosed with Distemper and 2 with Parvo. 2 of the Parvo dogs died (we suspect one may have had Parvo AND Distemper). Additionally, we unintentionally introduced distemper/parvo to our fosters and infected 3 more, one of which died…

        And the city once again claimed to vaccinate all inpounds and claimed they were “revisiting” their cleaning procedures… and the city and shelter joined voices to once again blame the irresponsible public… and continued on with business as usual blaming No Kill El Paso for scaring the public from adopting with the info about the Distemper/Parvo outbreak forgetting that they had issued a press releaese a month earlier… just not publicized it!

        Unfortunately this is a story that has to be reposted 2 or 3 times a year…

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