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 – or at least they should be.
The Kenton Co pound in KY apparently didn’t get the memo. Director Elizabeth Cochran killed 21 dogs in response to at least 3 dogs testing positive for parvo in late July. She appeared to admit to the local news that routine disease prevention protocols are not followed in her facility:
Because the virus is so contagious, and the dogs were next to each other in kennels, Cochran said the fast-spreading virus passed from dog to dog before symptoms were even present.
“Staff could go in and clean, essentially touch them and then move onto other dogs and not know they had the virus on them and so it spreads rapidly,” Cochran said.
Failing to wash hands or switch gloves between each animal to prevent the spread of disease is unacceptable in any shelter. Killing dogs who have tested positive for parvo without providing treatment is also unacceptable. As is 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.
When asked at a public meeting earlier this month how many dogs were killed, Cochran said the number was “irrelevant”. She closed the facility for 2 weeks for cleaning, which is another protocol not supported by science:
There is no benefit to a waiting period prior to re-use of a kennel after CPV decontamination; either mechanical cleaning and disinfection was effective, or it was not. Waiting a day or even a couple of weeks will not result in a significant further decrease in contamination. To be on the safe side, kennels should be completely cleaned, disinfected, and dried at least twice before re-use, however this can happen in a short period of time (e.g. 24 hours) if the area or kennel is needed urgently.
Regarding vaccination, Cochran is quoted in every article telling the public they need to vaccinate their dogs – a preventive measure which she apparently fails to employ in her own facility. UC Davis says:
Vaccination is the cornerstone of parvovirus prevention in shelters and communities. In the absence of maternal antibody interference, a single modified live vaccine can confer protection within 3-5 days. Research to date has found that currently available vaccines protect against all known strains of parvovirus, including parvovirus 2c. All dogs and puppies > 4 weeks of age should be vaccinated at the time of shelter admission (or ideally, at least a week before), including those who are injured or mildly ill.
Cochran, who appears to be surrounded by enablers, says she did everything she could during the outbreak:
“I personally called 25 local veterinarians to see what could be done,” Cochran said.
Gee, it’s hard to imagine that 25 vets didn’t all tell her to vaccinate all dogs prior to or immediately upon intake, to wash hands or switch gloves between animals and that there is zero benefit to closing the facility for 2 weeks for cleaning. But I wasn’t there so I don’t know. Maybe 25 vets blamed the unwashed masses for failing to vaccinate and absolved her of all responsibility.
The Kenton Co pound needs to bring its 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. Every shelter pet is relevant and the needless killing of even one is unacceptable.
(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)