The number of dogs becoming sick from a strange illness that forced the shutdown of a Gwinnett County shelter has more than tripled in under 24 hours, officials said Saturday. But still only one has died since police reported the incident Friday. There are 19 animals at the shelter that are showing symptoms of the illness, according to Gwinnett County police. On Friday, police said only five of the 150 dogs in the shelter were sick.
On Saturday the shelter staff began administering doxycycline in hopes that it will clear up the symptoms and the shelter is working with four veterinarians to help care for and clean the animals, police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said. On Saturday new cleaning procedures were put in place during the quarantine, Pihera said. Animals were also moved around within the shelter to cut down on exposure and to create a true, two-pen quarantine environment for every dog, she said. As of late Saturday, none of the 19 dogs’ conditions appeared to be life-threatening, she said.
For the past two weeks, the dogs at the shelter have been getting very ill, very quickly, Pihera said. And so far, one has died, she said.
“The dogs were happy and playful one day and the next day they appeared extremely sick,” Pihera said Friday. “Their symptoms are coughing, sneezing, and mucous coming from the nose.”
After one of the dogs died from the illness, officials decided to close the shelter and the director contacted the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine to determine exactly what has been causing the dogs to be sick, she said.
The testing at UGA is expected to take four days, Pihera said Friday. During that time, no animals will be allowed into the shelter and none will be allowed to leave, she said. The shelter was closed at 2 p.m. Friday to the public and will remain closed until the testing is completed, Pihera said. A temporary shelter was set up at an alternate location to house animals taken in by the Animal Control officers, she said.
The shelter also contacted adopters, owners who reclaimed an animal and rescuers who have taken an animal in the last two weeks to ask that they keep their dogs separated from all the other dogs in the home, she said. There have been 52 dogs adopted, 41 dogs picked up from a rescue group, and 41 dogs re-claimed by the owner, officials said. If a newly adopted dog or reclaimed dog begins to show any of the symptoms mentioned above, the director recommends that the owner take it to the veterinarian immediately. So far, there has been no report that any of these animals has been sick.
The last time the shelter was shut down was approximately seven years ago due to a Parvo outbreak. In that incident the shutdown was mandated by the state.