Canine Influenza Outbreak Prompts New State Guidelines and Changes to Walk for Animals Event
Amid a community outbreak of canine influenza, guidelines from state health officials recommend dogs not congregate in large numbers. Organizers of Animal Humane Society’s upcoming Walk for Animals urge all participants to still attend–and raise money–but leave their dogs at home.
“Having hundreds or thousands of dogs together is completely counter to what that guidance is that we’re echoing that the board of health put out there to have that many dogs be together,” said Dr. Graham Brayshaw, director of veterinary medicine for Animal Humane Society. “It was very disappointing that we should do it, but it’s something that we should do.”
On Wednesday, state health regulators put out guidance after a handful of cases of canine influenza. Among the suggestions: avoid any large gathering of dogs from other households–such as dog parks or doggy day cares–and if you do put your dog around other dogs, be very careful to try to keep distance and sanitize your hands and clothing if you are in contact with dogs other than your own.
“Time-wise, it’s going to take weeks to really know what change we’re dealing with,” said Dr. Brayshaw. “So that’s why when we’re on the front end of this, we want to be cautious to make sure we don’t have a lot of spread.”
About a month ago, the Animal Humane Society suspended all adoptions and closed its shelters in Golden Valley, Coon Rapids and Woodbury because of an outbreak of the disease within its walls. It has since had the vast majority of its 200 dogs across all three locations test positive, and most all of them are on the mend while precautions continue.
Brayshaw said the community spread could prove more rampant among the estimated hundreds of thousands of dogs in the Twin Cities.
“If we stay at four cases or a case a week diagnosed and it stays at a really low level, then I’m a lot less worried,” he said. “If four becomes eight and then sixteen, and it gets into the hundreds each week, and that’s a true outbreak, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
The Walk for Animals raised more than $700,000 for the Animal Humane Society last year and its a statewide event on Saturday, May 6. The main gathering will be at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights, where all companion animals except dogs are welcome.
Organizers say since the shelters have been temporarily closed, they haven’t been able to accept donations, so they are asking anyone who would like to donate to bring those items to the Walk for Animals. They will accept donations of the following:
Canned cat food
Bags of dry cat food (preferably small 10-15 pounds as this is easier to hand out and carry)
Pet store gift cards
Gently used dog and cat toys
Large dog kennels
Dog and cat bowls
Cat and dog treats