‘Rescued Dogs’ Imported from Asia Infected with Deadly Influenza … Was LA Properly Warned?

LOS ANGELES

ANIMAL WATCH-On April 10, LA Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette issued a media release, entitled, "Canine Influenza Notice - Dogs Imported from Asia by Rescue group." 

 

It stated that Los Angeles County Veterinary Public Health reported the presence of multiple dogs in Los Angeles that were imported from Asia by a rescue group and infected with Canine Influenza (H3N2).

The advisory quickly included the assurance, "All of the dogs are currently in quarantine and thus far, there have been no further reports of ongoing infections."

This very low-keyed advisory merely copied from the County's description of symptoms for dogs (and cats), with severe cases dismissed in one line, "A small percentage of infected dogs may develop a severe pneumonia and require extensive hospitalization." 

"Cats infected with H3N2 display signs of upper respiratory disease, including nasal discharge, congestion, malaise, lip smacking and excessive salivation," it states.

It contains the County warning that the virus is spread via coughing, barking and sneezing, as well as contaminated objects (kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes), and can remain alive and able to infect other animals on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours.

However, nowhere in the LAAS release was their urging by GM Barnette for Los Angeles city dog or cat owners to immediately seek veterinary care for an animal that exhibits any of the symptoms of this highly contagious illness, which are very similar to many common canine diseases, including a possible cough in dogs similar to "kennel cough."  

The short message concluded with the underlined statement, "Veterinary Public Health recommends that dogs that interact with other dogs should be vaccinated against canine influenza."

Since reader interest wanes, shouldn't a warning that vaccination is vital to protecting pets that frequently "interact" with other dogs appear near the beginning, considering the current trend by Angelenos to take their furry companions to dog parks or doggie day care and socialize them in public places?

LAAS also could have also done a little more research and warned that infected dogs usually show symptoms within 24-48 hours and can spread the virus for up to 28 days and that some exposed dogs will contract and spread the virus without showing symptoms. This information was easily accessible and could have been provided to emphasize the importance, especially for first-time pet owners.

This also means a dog could be infected with CIV and adopted to a new owner, transferred to a "foster" or placed in a retail rescue pet shop/kennel in a busy commercial location and could expose other dogs before symptoms appear.

The potential of a Canine Influenza outbreak is serious enough for LAAS Chief Veterinarian Jeremy Prupas to appear personally before the city Animal Services Commission on May 23 to request funding to vaccinate LA shelter dogs. 

That was the same meeting where Barnette encouraged the Commission to approve her proposed "finders, keepers" policy to enter into agreements with LA residents who pick up stray or lost animals to take them into their homes (potentially with other pets) and keep them for up to 35 days. 

This proposal in her May 4, 2017 report -- less than one month after the County Canine Influenza alert -- does not mention or require that the finder get a veterinary health check or have the dog or cat vaccinated during that period.

 LA DESERVES MORE INFORMATION ON THE H3N2 CANINE INFLUENZA

What Brenda Barnette's media release also did not include from the County Health Report is that:

"After investigation, a total of 50 dogs exposed to the virus were identified, including 35 sick animals. H3N2 canine influenza was confirmed by laboratory testing (PCR) in 6 dogs and the remainder of the sick dogs (29) were suspected to also harbor the virus based on symptoms. All exposed dogs (35 sick and 15 healthy) were put under isolation in 17 locations around LA County. Two sick dogs died, however both were suffering from other unrelated illnesses." 

The County also admits that the introduction of this virus to Los Angeles could have much more serious consequences." Samples from several dogs were submitted to veterinary virologists in order to compare this virus to the canine influenza H3N2 virus that caused a large outbreak in the Chicago area  in 2015."

Thirty-four dogs were notably ill as of April 7, according to the KTLA report, and were placed under quarantine or isolation in 10 separate locations around the county. This report also states that, "one dog imported from China first tested positive for the virus in March" and that “local veterinarians are already warning pet owners."

It is prudent not to create a feeling of panic, but is it fair not to indicate that there is an urgency in providing immediate care for an animal that could be exposed to or contract this virulent and potentially fatal disease from other animals?  

If these imported animals had not presented symptoms of illness upon arrival, it is possible that they could have been housed in homes or a "rescue retail pet shops" in Los Angeles, where other animals would have been exposed. 

WHY ARE U.S. DOGS SUDDENLY ATTACKED BY DISEASE?

On March 18, 2016, Dog Rescues Import Disease to U.S.  compiles information about the huge "imported-dog pipeline" which brings dogs from Mexico across the border to California, which are then shipped north to Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Canada. It adds, "Besides importing from California, Washington imports from India and other Asian countries." 

This well documented article also states:

"These shelters and rescues will promote that they saved these dogs from overcrowded California shelters to hide the fact that the dogs actually came from South America or Asia. Another huge import pipeline comes through Asia, India, the Bahamas, Aruba, Guam, and Puerto Rico shipping dogs to the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and others states and the dogs are then shipped north to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England as saved from an “overcrowded southern shelter.

"These animals are washed through several shelters and each reports them as “intakes” inflating the numbers of dogs reported as being in American shelters and hiding the true origin of the dog."

With Rescue Dogs In Demand, More Shelters Look Far Afield For Fido  confirms import-rescue in a January 1, 2015, NPR report, which interviews Laurie McCannon, director of the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass. 

McCannon told NPR that their shelter was expanded to 13,000 square feet to house the increasing number of dogs the shelter transports from other states and Puerto Rico. The shelter originally placed about 300 dogs a year in new homes, she said. but adopted out 4,400 dogs in 2013, three-quarters of them from out of state.

Patti Strand, director of the National Animal Interest Alliance, calls it "retail rescue." Veterinarians, and even some pet rescue groups, are expressing concerns about what some call 'dog trafficking',"  according to the report. 

AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION REPORT

The AVMA advises that Canine Influenza virus has now been reported in at least 40 states and Washington, D.C.

The H3N2 strain of canine influenza virus was originally an avian (bird) flu virus that adapted to infect dogs. It was reported earlier in Korea, China and Thailand, but was not detected outside of those countries until 2015.

In April 2015, an outbreak that started in Chicago and reportedly affected over 1,000 dogs was determined to be caused by the H3N2 strain almost identical to the one identified in Asia. 

Since May 2015, thousands of dogs have been confirmed positive for H3N2 canine influenza across the U.S., according to the AVMA. 

Here are some important facts.

Virtually all dogs that are exposed become infected with the virus, and approximately 80% develop clinical signs of disease. The approximately 20% of infected dogs that do not exhibit clinical signs of disease can still shed the virus and spread the infection.

CIV is not a "seasonal" flu – infections can occur year-round. 

The majority of infected dogs exhibit the mild form of canine influenza, with a cough that persists for 10 to 21 days despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants. Affected dogs may have a soft, moist cough or a dry cough similar to "kennel cough." Other symptoms are sneezing and possible discharge from the nose and/or eyes. Lethargy and decreased appetite causing weight loss may also be observed. 

Currently the number of deaths associated with severe cases is less than 10%, and, thus far, there have been no fatalities reported in infected cats, according to the AVMA. 

CAN CANINE INFLUENZA VIRUSES INFECT HUMANS?

The CDC reports that, to date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza viruses from dogs to people and there has not been a single reported case of human infection. And, "while, influenza viruses are constantly changing and it is possible for a virus to change so that it could infect humans and spread easily between humans, in general, canine influenza viruses are considered to pose a low threat to humans."

CANINE INFLUENZA REPORTS SHOW INCREASED OUTBREAKS

June 9, 2017 - Canine Influenza Outbreak Confirmed in Eight States.

NEWS10 in Gainesville, Fla. reports, confirmed cases of H3N2 have been reported in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas and Illinois, according to the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine  

"Veterinarians with the University of Florida say most dogs do not have immunity to the virus so dogs of any breed or health status can be infected," the report warns. 

June 10, 2017 - Canine flu has killed 2 NC dogs. 

Veterinarians are urging dog owners to take precautions after highly contagious canine influenza killed two dogs in North Carolina and is suspected of sickening others.

The sick dogs are apparently linked to dog shows last month in DeLand, Fla., and Perry, GaThe dead dogs were from the Raleigh area and North Carolina’s coast, the Charlotte Observer reports.

Suspected cases have swept through the dog world since the flu was identified in Chicago in 2015, the American Kennel Club states. North Carolina reported 225 suspected cases that year. 

Dr. Patricia Norris, who heads the NC Agriculture Department's Animal Welfare Section, said that in addition to two dead dogs, a cluster of suspected cases have been reported in coastal counties and a couple have been reported in the Raleigh-Durham area. One dog in Davidson County, northeast of Charlotte, was at the Florida dog show and is under quarantine.

Norris advises owners who suspect their dogs are sick keep them away from even casual contact with other dogs, such as at dog parks or greenways. Healthy dogs should be safe in such places, she said, but owners should be cautious.

She recommends that any dog owners with concerns should contact their veterinarians. "Vaccines are advisable in some cases but not in others, depending on the dog’s circumstances."

“We want to be careful,” she said. “We don’t want to cause a panic, but to be vigilant.” 

CONCERNS FOR CALIFORNIA GROWING

AB 845 creating Retail Rescue Pet Shops statewide and prohibiting stores selling any pet except a "rescue" is an issue now before the State legislature.

It would expand rescuers bringing dogs and cats from unknown sources. It would also increase housing an unlimited number of shelter or other homeless animals in small commercial locations, without the proper air exchange and other precautions to guard against spreading contagious respiratory and other diseases. It does not impose the inspections or health-and-safety provisions required of a boarding kennel, shelter or other animal-housing facility.

CALIFORNIA CAN GAIN WISDOM FROM OTHERS' EXPERIENCE 

In 2012, 14,000 animals for adoption were brought to Connecticut from other states, veterinarian Arnold Goldman, told NPR, as he discussed the importation of health issues, "...like mange and heartworm, as a result."

Dr. Goldman voiced a concern of many across the country, "There are Connecticut-origin animals in our brick-and-mortar shelters who wait for homes themselves," he says. "And there is something disconcerting about that."

LAAS GM Brenda Barnette and other City officials should also be expressing this concern. Why are dogs and cats with unknown health histories allowed to be imported from other states/countries for adoptions and endanger local pets, while Barnette is blaming overcrowded Los Angeles City shelters for her failure to make her "no kill" goal?

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

-cw

 

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