Indiana animal shelter fights spread of virus

MUNSTER, Ind. (WLS) -- The Humane Society Calumet Area Adoption and Intake Center in Munster, Ind., is temporarily closed after a virus sickened many pets.

Now the shelter is taking steps to ensure the health and safety of the animals there.

Bremley is one sick puppy. The Chihuahua-Yorkie mix was recently returned by the family that adopted him after he got sick with a respiratory virus.

"This has been really catastrophic for our shelter, and it's something we haven't dealt with before in terms of the severity of disease," said Rachel Delaney of Humane Society Calumet Area.

Delaney says the outbreak began Friday after an ailing dog was brought in and quickly spread to the shelter's animals. It hasn't yet been confirmed as dog flu, but 94 of the kennel's 99 dogs are now sick with the respiratory virus which appears to be highly contagious and potentially severe.

Butterbee, a 10-month old Am-Staff mix gets another breathing treatment this afternoon after contracting the virus. His symptoms include a deep cough that sounds like a goose's honk along with vomiting, a runny nose and lethargy.

Shelter vet Dr. Brenda Dines says the virus is rarely fatal, but Humane Society staff is administering antibiotics to prevent secondary infection and paying close attention to each dog's nutrition, fluid intake and general well-being.

"The H3N2 is what we're scared of at this point, being that we're near the Chicago region, that there's animals that come from the Chicago region and that they may have ended up in our shelter and drifted along with this virus for us," Dines said.

Humane Society staff says the virus cannot be spread to humans or the 80 cats also housed the facility, but they're still being quarantined. The shelter plans on suspending pet adoptions and not accepting intakes for a minimum of three weeks as they work to make sure the illness doesn't spread.

The dogs are being monitored being very carefully as they recover from the upper respiratory infections. Staff are taking precautions as well to ensure they don't take the virus home to their own pets. Staff say one dog has died, but they have not confirmed if the fatality was related to the virus or from other causes.
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