ANIMAL SHELTERS across the Commonwealth are experiencing an overwhelming number of dogs contracting the canine influenza virus, straining resources and space at shelters and putting lives at risk.
Canine influenza (CIV) and canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC) are highly contagious respiratory diseases of concern to shelters, rescue groups, and anywhere dogs gather or are co-housed. These diseases can range from no signs to severe illness resulting in pneumonia and sometimes death.
“Canine influenza has been a growing threat over the past year. Shelters and boarding facilities are more susceptible to outbreaks due to having multiple dogs and limited space. Shelters, boarding facilities and pet owners should look for clinical signs such as fever, lethargy, coughing, inappetence and nasal discharge. The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association (VVMA) highly recommends dogs be vaccinated against the virus to help protect them from developing severe clinical signs. Shelters and boarding facilities should have action plans outlining guidance for isolation, quarantine, and disinfection. Prevention is our best defense against this virus to protect our furry friends,” explains Lauren Maxey, DVM, President, VVMA.
“The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies (VFHS) is raising awareness of canine influenza and canine infectious disease complex to help dog owners understand the seriousness of the disease and the impact it is having on the shelters in our community,” says Melissa Rubin, VFHS Executive Director.
Animal shelters throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia have seen a sizable increase ranging from 25%-60% in the number of dogs coming into their care. Simultaneously, dogs are remaining in the shelter for longer periods due to decreased adoptions, leaving shelters struggling to care for more dogs with fewer staff and space to house them. Many pet owners are unable to afford essential vaccinations thus contributing to shelter sickness.
So what can community members do to assist? If you can no longer keep your pet, please work with your shelter or local rescue to try and keep your pet out of the shelter until there is more space or your pet can be vaccinated to prevent getting and spreading disease. If you are able to foster an animal, it very well may save the life of that animal and others. Contact your local and state elected officials and inform them that our animal shelters are in crisis and that more resources and funding are needed for them and for affordable veterinary care in your area. Finally, be kind to your local shelters. They all need volunteers and are struggling to save lives so kindness and volunteering will make a difference.
“Too many shelters in Virginia are underfunded, leaving them with little space and small budgets to house and properly care for the animals the community brings to them,” says Rubin. “On top of the scarcity of affordable veterinary care in communities, it is a struggle for shelters and community members who truly want to do right by their animals. The Commonwealth must do better.”
VFHS is joining forces with animal welfare organizations from around the Commonwealth to remove barriers to essential wellness care by offering grants that support affordable spay/neuter and vaccines in under-resourced communities and offering free online educational forums on a variety of topics. VFHS also is working to advance legislation that would permit animal shelters to provide off-site vaccination clinics, something that is currently restricted and an unnecessary barrier to accessing affordable veterinary care.
The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies is the Commonwealth’s oldest and largest animal welfare membership organization founded in 1959. It is composed of over 150 members and is a leader in operating and supporting progressive animal programs across Virginia. To become a member, as an individual or an organization, and to join the fight to secure more resources for animals in Virginia, visit www.vfhs.org