February 26, 2024 8:32 am
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Animal Foundation Suspends Services Due to Developing Outbreak

Credit: iStock

Reinette LeJeune

The Animal Foundation, after issuing urgent pleas to the public to encourage adopting foster animals, is now announcing its suspension of adoption, fostering, and transfers to rescues out of caution due to dogs that may have been exposed to a respiratory illness. In a statement posted to their Facebook account, TAF reported it is not sure whether this illness is streptococcus zooepidemicus, a highly contagious and deadly disease characterized by fever, shortness of breath, and bleeding from the nose or something else entirely. Hearts Alive Village, an animal rescue organization, posted on their Facebook account that they were contacted September 30th by TAF about having received a dog on September 27th who had shared a bungalow with another dog that had tested positive for Strep Zoo. “Testing will confirm what kind of illness they have and we are awaiting results,” TAF wrote on Facebook.

TAF  claimed that no animals have since been euthanized, however, the Nevada Current recently learned that a border collie named Bullock who tested positive for Strep Zoo was euthanized days after he was taken home by a foster parent. It was on September 27th that Gina Desamito brought Bullock home with her to play with her new puppy, and soon after he began coughing, gagging, and  “seemed like he was trying to throw up. He wouldn’t sit or lie down. He would just stand,” Desamito said in an email, “He seemed extremely uncomfortable, so we contacted the Animal Foundation.” After TAF examined the dog, who had developed a yellow substance leaking from his nose, they concluded that he may have kennel cough. But when Desamito brought him home, “his mouth was dripping a lot of blood and his tongue looked like bacon. And he just dropped to the floor and started crying.” She rushed him to an emergency vet, who kept him overnight, and contacted TAF. “They just kept apologizing and saying that they misdiagnosed him,” she says, “They told us that he had been euthanized because he went into septic shock… and they didn’t expect things to turn so quickly as it did.” According to a report obtained by the Nevada Current from Desamito, Bullockalso tested positive for pneumovirus, which had spread to a relative’s dog as well. A sign now hangs on the door of the City of Henderson Animal Shelter, reading, “If you are fostering a dog for the Animal Foundation you MUST return that dog to the Animal Foundation. Henderson Animal Shelter will NOT accept foster dogs from the Animal Foundation.”

“The public has not been informed of the risk and deserves transparency because people who tried to help these animals have put their own pets at risk,” says Gina Griesen of Nevada Voters for Animals. According to veterinary experts, Streptococcus zooepidemicus, or “Strep Zoo,”  is commonly found in shelters that exceed their capacity for care. A spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Agriculture says shelters have no obligation to inform the state veterinarian of a potential outbreak.

Back in 2018, Kristine Auerbach, the shelter director of Pima Animal Care Center warned about this very disease, saying, “This is a truly terrifying dog disease. Infected shelter dogs are often found in the morning, lying deceased in a pool of red after they ‘bleed out’ from their lungs. Often these dogs appear healthy just hours before dying. In the past, entire shelter populations have been culled because of Strep zoo.” Pet owners are encouraged to remain informed through any means necessary as the scope of this disease’s spread is still being measured.