Two Highly Contagious Illnesses Cause Humane Society to Pause Dog Surrenders

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A dog in San Diego Humane Society’s care. Credit: San Diego Humane Society

The San Diego Humane Society temporarily paused owner surrenders of dogs, except in emergencies that threaten the health of the pet, due to occurrences of two highly contagious diseases.

The illnesses — a respiratory disease called Streptococcus Equi subspecies Zooepidemicus and also known as Strep zoo, and a bacterial infection called Mycoplasma — have in combination led to more severe disease than one of the pathogens might cause alone.

“Any shelter that cares for the large number of animals we care for is used to managing infectious disease,” said Dr. Gary Weitzman, president and CEO at San Diego Humane Society. “But this is the first time we have had this highly virulent pathogen.”

“We believe this is a direct result of having to operate over capacity this entire year,” he said. “We really need the community’s help to save lives here.”

As a result of the illnesses and operating over capacity, the organization will limit all dog intake to stray animals through December and request that all relinquishments be made by appointment.

Additionally, SDHS will waive reclaim fees for anyone picking up their lost dog, through Dec. 1. Adoption fees for puppies and dogs through the end of November will also be waived. Visit www.sdhumane.org/adopt to adopt.

Lastly, the humane society urges anyone able to temporarily foster a dog to do so in hopes of getting at least 100 dogs out of the shelter as soon as possible. Visit www.sdhumane.org/foster for more information on fostering animals.

According to the organization, three dogs have died from Strep zoo at its San Diego Campus. Strep zoo is a bacteria that is primarily spread through direct contact and fomites. To prevent the spread of the disease, all 77 dogs who have tested positive or been exposed to Strep zoo are being treated, and staff working with the dogs are required to wear personal protective equipment.

San Diego Humane Society is currently operating at 178% capacity for dogs and 116% capacity for cats and continues to be flooded with animals in need.

Finders of lost animals are strongly encouraged to participate in their Wait 48 or StrayCare programs, which allow community members to care for stray pets in their homes while the organization actively works to find their owner.

“Through the Wait 48 program, you can keep a lost pet in your home for a few days while seeking the pet’s owner,” a statement from SDHS reads. “Through the StrayCare Program, you can keep a lost pet in your home during their legally required 72-hour stray hold period while we seek their owner. If the owner can’t be found, you can choose to adopt, continue fostering or return the pet to the shelter at a prescheduled appointment time.”

City News Service contributed to this article.