Parvo threatens dogs at shelter

Friday, March 11, 2011

Parvo, a highly contagious virus that's almost always fatal to dogs when untreated, is a problem at the animal shelter on Woodside Drive, according to animal advocates, and Lewisburg councilmen are willing to help an animal adoption group solve it.

Councilman Robin Minor brought the issue to the council on Tuesday when it was explained by Tisha Poling of Lewisburg Animal Shelter Adoptions (LASA), a group that sent its charter to Tennessee's Secretary of State on Wednesday.

The solution might appear to be as simple as reconfiguration of the animal shelter for sanitary reasons. That would dramatically reduce the prospect of continued spread of the disease that kills dogs by rapid dehydration.

Councilmen reached a consensus that City Manager David Orr should gather information about the situation so that a recommendation might be developed for and with the council.

Orr visited the shelter Thursday and reported animal control officers say parvo is a problem when litters of puppies are received at the shelter.

"It's not necessarily an on-going problem," Orr said, explaining infected puppies are in danger of not become adult dogs.

Installation of cages would greatly reduce the problem, the manager continued.

Poling is to return to City Hall with a more definitive recommendation on what should be done after talking with an animal supply company, Orr said.

"I was impressed by the operation" of the shelter, he said. "Those dogs are treated very humanely."

The shelter is a cooperative effort with Marshall County and Poling reports LASA has support from the county commission's animal control committee. There are two animal control officers. One is paid by the city. The other is a county employee.

"Parvo is spread through waste, vomit and feces," Poling said. "If one dog has the disease, and its feces are washed away, then it's exposing, pretty much, any dog there."

The local shelter's problem stems from its two large pens. One is for small dogs. The other is for large dogs. However, the floor's design permits spread of animal waste and body fluids and, thereby, infection. Poling encouraged city officials to visit the shelter to see the building that includes a heated area for the animals and what Poling called four kennels.

"It's been an issue at a lot of kennels for a long time," Poling said of the way the local shelter is laid out, "but others may have more control over the set up and cleaning.

"Our ultimate goal would be to build a replacement, but with limited resources it's now to reconfigure the current building so each kennel could be cleaned separately," she said. "It's a simpler process and no other dog would be exposed."

LASA established itself on Facebook and claims 1,900 fans and up to 30,000 hits a day, Poling said. It's a way to market the dogs for adoption, but other organizations are reluctant to do so when a dog is sick because treatment adds cost.

Parvovirus is like "a very bad flu involving vomit, diarrhea, bloody stool and mucus laden vomit," Poling said. "The dog dehydrates itself and dies.

"Parvo is around all year round, but it's more prevalent in moderate weather," she said. "Dogs come in constantly and could be bringing in the disease or several diseases."

LASA recommends the shelter be reconfigured within the current structure. The group has no cost estimate. It has drawings and a contractor.

"Once we get positive feedback from the city, we'll put out a list of things we need, hoping for donations," Poling said.