Anchorage Animal Care and Control stopped accepting or adopting out dogs this week after several animals tested positive for the highly contagious canine parvovirus.
Municipal officials expect the shelter to reopen for adoptions within the next few days, but it will be at least two weeks before they can accept any dogs. Meanwhile, the shelter is asking people to utilize social media or other websites to help reunite strays with their owners or rehome a dog.
The shelter remains open and adoptions for cats or other animals are not affected by the parvo outbreak.
Two puppies brought to the shelter as strays began showing parvo symptoms after they’d been admitted and both tested positive for the virus on Tuesday, according to shelter spokesman Joel Jorgensen. Symptoms of the virus include vomiting, diarrhea and severe lethargy.
“We caught it pretty quickly from their entry into the shelter, but it usually takes a day or two until any of those symptoms start showing after they get it, and at that point they’re in the shelter and they’ve been walking around ,” Jorgensen said.
A third dog, also less than a year old, tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, he said. Young dogs are more susceptible to parvovirus because they may not have completed their vaccination cycles and have weaker immune systems.
Treatment for parvo can be costly, so Jorgensen said the shelter had to euthanize the three dogs who tested positive.
Parvovirus spreads through contact and can be fatal if left untreated. It can be prevented with a vaccine.
The shelter automatically vaccinates dogs against parvovirus when they are surrendered, but Jorgensen said that the vaccine will not treat a dog who is already infected.
Every dog in the shelter is undergoing testing for the virus, Jorgensen said, and animals exhibiting symptoms are being quarantined to prevent any further spread. Adoptions will likely resume in the next few days, he said, but the shelter has to wait two weeks from the last positive test before they can accept more dogs.
“We don’t want to put those animals at any health risk,” Jorgensen said. “So it’s really just asking the community to do their part to try to either find the stray’s family, find a foster for it until we can reopen it or adopt it themselves if they like it.”
Jorgensen recommended checking social media, or websites like Craigslist and Alaska’s List to find a new home for their pet or to search for a stray dog’s owner.
Animal Care and Control officials are contacting people who adopted pets during the previous month, but Jorgensen said none had reported that their dogs were ill by Thursday.
The shelter had 64 dogs on Thursday, which is slightly higher than normal, Jorgensen said, adding the facility normally sees an increase this time of year.
• • •