TN Pound Kills 12 Dogs in Response to Parvo

Shelters who fail to vaccinate all animals prior to or immediately upon intake, utilize standard disease prevention cleaning protocols and/or maintain good housing practices are failing to prevent the spread of diseases such as parvo.

The webpage for Robertson Co Animal Control in TN does not indicate whether they vaccinate all dogs against parvo upon intake but mentions only that adopted pets receive a rabies shot.  The page also refers to a “goal that every effort be made to have animals walk out of the facility alive” which sounds pretty good.  But this doesn’t:

“I have a vet that’s on my committee and I consulted him about it and he said, if I come back in on Tuesday with two more cases [of parvo], I need to put everything down and start cleaning the building,” said [Robertson Co shelter director David] Blackwood.

Twelve dogs were killed this week and the pound was closed so the facility could be bleached thoroughly.  Parvo is a treatable illness and not an automatic death sentence for shelter dogs, most especially for asymptomatic and immune animals.  There is no science behind the recommendation to kill every dog in the facility and close for cleaning.  In fact, had the facility been thoroughly cleaned as a matter of course, and dogs vaccinated prior to or immediately upon intake as a matter of course, two dogs may not have died in their cages at the Robertson Co pound.  Why wait until dogs are dead and the place is closed to perform a thorough cleaning?

But wait, there’s more:

The facility will be closed until next week as they continue sterilizing the area. Anyone who has adopted a dog from Robertson County Animal Control within the past two weeks has been contacted.

The virus dehydrates the animal and while veterinarians can treat sick dogs, there is not a 100% guarantee of recovery.

The cost for treatment is around $15,000.

Oh geez.  I hope the recent adopters weren’t told that.  It’s true there isn’t a 100% guarantee of recovery from parvo – or any other illness.  But for adopted pets in a home environment who are taken to a private vet for treatment, the chances of recovery are very good.  And the cost may be nothing – for asymptomatic dogs – or more obviously for those who need treatment.  But $15 grand?  Not bloody likely.

Austin Pets Alive has a ward set up for parvo dogs at their shelter and it’s run by volunteers.  The 2011 save rate was approximately 88% and the average cost of treatment per dog was $250.  That’s in a shelter environment where the disease would be more challenging to manage than in a home with an adopted pet.

I hope no more dogs were needlessly killed beyond the 12 due to such misinformation.  And I hope the Robertson Co pound gets up to speed on best practices for disease prevention and management and starts including thorough cleaning and vaccination as a routine part of its protocols.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me the link to this story.)

15 thoughts on “TN Pound Kills 12 Dogs in Response to Parvo

  1. Every single shelter can be faced with Parvo infection. With the vaccination and cleaning, a shelter can contain and control the spread of the disease. It does happen in our shelter every now and then that a dog comes in that already has Parvo but you can’t see the symptoms. It takes about 8 days for the vaccination to take effect which means the virus can spread and infect dogs that came in until up to 7 days prior to the Parvo ingfected dog. In the end, it all comes down to how quick you see the symptoms and can isolate the infected dog. We do have observed rare cases where dogs got infected with the Parvo virus that had a history of vaccination. Usually a Parvo treatment at the veterinarian cost us about $600 and the survival rate is over 90%.
    Parvo itself still is a rather unknown disease. I talked with several veterinarians and I was told by some that there can be different strains of the Parvo virus and the vaccination does not work against all strains. There are similarities between the human Flu virus and the Parvo virus, both can mutate over time. As example, the vaccination for the human flu does change almost every year due to mutation and the resulting different strains of the virus. I’m not sure if it is the same with the Parvo vaccination.
    Either way, daily cleaning with Bleach and vaccinating by intake are crucial for a successful fight against Parvo.

    1. The standard vaccination is effective on the majority of strains, and so far as I know it does not change yearly (though all vaccinations change to some degree over time.) There are different strains, but the issue this causes is not so much with vaccination but with survival rate. If a dog does become infected, their chance of survival will be affected by the specific strain (though treatment for all strains is the same.)

      However, no vaccine is 100%, so it is entirely possible for a dog to be vaccinated and still become infected. Thankfully it is rare…but as you point out, vaccination will not stop a dog from becoming infected if they were exposed before that vaccine starts working on the immune system. So vaccinating at intake, while incredibly important, is not a guarantee that an outbreak won’t happen.

      Even with the more dangerous strains, though, parvo has a very good survival rate with treatment. I have no idea why shelters act as if death is a forgone conclusion. That DID used to be the case, but we’ve come a long, long way in veterinary care. We treated many parvo cases at our hospital, and survival was well above 90% for us as well, even with very severe cases. And $15,000 for treatment is just insane…we’re one of the more expensive hospitals in the area and the charge would probably be around $1000, and most of the is the hospitalization fees.

      The shelter also isn’t taking into account that dogs may have been exposed before and thus have a level of natural immunity. They’re treating parvo like science labs treat TB in a monkey room…if one animal comes up positive, protocol is often to euthanize all animals in the room because the disease is incredibly contagious in primates. However, TB is passed through the air…with sanitation and disinfect, a parvo outbreak can be controlled much more easily.

  2. Fifteen thousand dollars??? I call bullshit. Bigtime.

    And how do they know that any strays that came in weren’t already immune? You don’t slash and burn the whole population, jackasses.

    Why are these people living in the dark ages? And who is this “vet on the committee” who advised them to commit this atrocity? Is he the same one charging people 15k to save a parvo dog?

    1. If you watch the video, the news reporter says “$1,500” not $15,000. So it’s a typo. I have heard of a $1,500 bill for parvo treatment before. But the days of even bills that high for parvo treatment are on their way out now that vets are discovering how fast and effective Tamiflu is in treating parvo. (Some people claim that some vets won’t use it because it’s so much cheaper and they would rather do expensive treatment.)

  3. “I have a vet that’s on my committee and I consulted him about it and he said, if I come back in on Tuesday with two more cases [of parvo], I need to put everything down and start cleaning the building,” said [Robertson Co shelter director David] Blackwood.

    Because they aren’t living sentient beings you know, just “things”. And this is a shelter director, I’m disgusted but not surprised. Which is sad. Really really sad.

  4. In California, it would not be unheard of for a parvo case to cost $15K. I’ve worked at places where we’ve saved very sick puppies that were in the hospital for over a week with bills approaching that. The only cases that I saw that were only $200 were ones that got very minimal outpatient treatment and went home. What happened to those puppies, I don’t know but I suspect that most needed additional treatment. That was in private practice, of course–I’m sure treatment at a shelter would be less expensive.

    No, parvo is not a death sentence. However, I can see how a dozen or so parvo cases would completely blow that months budget. And that’s what these guys are worried about. Hopefully they will be willing to work with some rescue groups in pulling the sick dogs and getting them treatment instead of just killing everything.

    1. “However, I can see how a dozen or so parvo cases would completely blow that months budget. And that’s what these guys are worried about.”

      It’s not at all clear to me what they were worried about when needlessly killing every dog in the place and closing for cleaning.

      Added: This pound is in the deep south, not California. I made that clear in the title and body of the post.

      1. I understand that this pound is in the Deep South. I’m making the point that while YOU may have never paid 15K for treating parvo, it’s not a lie to say that it’s possible. And I’m not going to believe that even in “the Deep South”, it only costs $200 to treat anything but the most mild of parvo cases.

        The other posters are right–without the right facilities, it’s virtually impossible to contain a parvo outbreak in a mostly unvaccinated population. That doesn’t justify killing every single dog, but it does make it impossible to stay open for intakes and adoptions for some period of time. That makes it a political issue as well as a management issue.

      2. If your intent is to imply that I – in general or specifically in this case – call something a “lie” when it does not mesh with my personal experience, I have to disagree obviously. If your intent was something else, it’s lost on me. I quoted the APA figure since they are the only shelter I know who has posted their average cost and save rate for parvo cases publicly. Obviously other shelters may have different figures but since they are unknown to me, I can’t quote them or speculate about how different or similar they may be to APA’s figures. $15k for an average case in TN sounds extremely unlikely to me but as Lisa pointed out, she heard the reporter in the video say $1500, not $15k, which suggests one of those figures is a typo on the original source’s part – and I would guess it’s the $15k figure. It sounds as if your mind is already made up on the cost to treat parvo since you state you are “not going to believe…” This is where having a discussion hits a wall. At any rate, it appears there is general agreement that there is no justification for killing every dog in the place which is the larger issue to my mind. I don’t care exactly how shelters save parvo dogs or whether their cost is more than, less than or equal to APA’s. I care that they do it. And that they NOT KILL asymptomatic and immune dogs in the face of an outbreak.

        On Sat, Jun 22, 2013 at 10:10 PM, YesBiscuit!

  5. I’m obviously not going to defend the killing of every dog in the place just in case, but I will say this, parvo in a shelter environment can be a b*tch.

    We’re in an old shelter that doesn’t have designated quarantine space and I confess, that for the first 10 months of operating the shelter we did euthanize for parvo because it was almost impossible to keep from spreading (and we do vaccinate on intake). We finally created an isolation area in an old office space and now treat it, but it’s VERY labor intensive and the risk of spreading disease is still very much there.

    I’m glad we treat for parvo. But I get how some shelters don’t have the resources for it — and the risk to overall herd health is pretty significant (particularly if your shelter isn’t designed with isolation areas — and most older than 10 years old are not).

    1. Just a tip, because I find shelters often rely on foot baths or skip this step…

      One of the most important tools for Parvo containment are disposable shoe covers or dedicated boots that are only worn in the iso area. A lot of shelters use a foot bath of bleach, but you’d need to stand in for ten minutes for it to be truly effective.

      1. We buy crocks for the 3-4 staffers who handle parvo pups and they change shoes at the door to go in and can just slip them on and off — and they bleach nicely.

  6. I am sick of the continued complicity coming from the vet community!
    AVMA- your negligence in this is astounding!!

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