N.J. animal shelter reopens after flu outbreak sickens dozens of dogs

PHOTOGCourtesy of Monmouth County SPCA

The Monmouth County SPCA reopened Thursday, Jan. 2, 2019 after a 21-day quarantine in response to a flu outbreak among the shelter’s dogs.

The Monmouth County SPCA has reopened its doors after nearly all of its dogs were infected with the flu, forcing a three-week shutdown of its adoption center just before the holidays.

Thursday marked the end of a 21-day quarantine for the shelter’s dogs and cats, and the facility was packed with people hoping to take home one of the hundreds of pets up for adoption.

The shelter in Eatontown announced Dec. 14 that it would be closing its adoption and veterinary centers after discovering flu-like symptoms in more than 45 rescue dogs, according to Ross Licitra, SPCA’s executive director.

The shelter said the animals were infected with H3N2, a highly contagious strain of canine influenza which can make dogs very sick.

Licitra told NJ Advance Media that shelter employees used extreme caution during the quarantine to ensure the shelter’s dogs and cats didn’t pick up the infectious illness, which can be passed between animals or off of clothing.

Staff members separated the animals into sections and changed their clothes after interacting with them, in addition to notifying owners who recently adopted from the shelter. They also made sure to clean the facility three to four times a day.

“We weren’t taking any chances — none whatsoever,” Licitra said.

The shelter received a clean bill of health from the Monmouth County Department of Health, with not a single previously adopted animal suffering the flu as a result of the outbreak, according to Licitra.

H3N2 symptoms include significant appetite loss and/or lethargy, severe nasal discharge and severe, heavy coughing.

The SPCA’s animal control services remained open during quarantine, but volunteer activities were cancelled.

While they recuperated, Licitra said the sick dogs enjoyed rotisserie chicken donated each day by a community member. Others dropped off towels, blankets or monetary donations to make up for the weeks the shelter was closed.

Licitra said between 55 and 70 animals are adopted from the SPCA each week. “We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from the public,” he said.

With all of the animals back to full health, the shelter is looking forward to helping them find new homes.

On Jan. 25, the SPCA will host a discounted adoption event to make up for one cancelled during the quarantine.

“At the end of the day, it is flu season for humans and the same thing for animals,” Licitra said. “These are lives that need to be saved.”

One of the SPCA’s pets for adoption.

Jenna Wise may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JennaRWise. Find NJ.com on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips.

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