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AHS: Canine influenza outbreak 'unprecedented' for Minnesota

The animal welfare organization says its large-scale quarantine will end up saving nearly 200 animals, but lost revenue from the closure is estimated at $1 million.

ST PAUL, Minn. — It's been two weeks since the Animal Humane Society made the decision to close three of its busiest facilities due to a devastating outbreak of canine influenza. 

In that time, most of the nearly 200 dogs housed in the shelters in Golden Valley, Coon Rapids and Woodbury have been under quarantine and moving through the infection and recovery process. AHS veterinary staff made the difficult decision to euthanize seven animals who were deemed too sick to make a full recovery. 

"We don't want to get this out into the general public so we're waiting until these dogs are well and can't spread the virus," explained Dr. Graham Brayshaw, AHS Director of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Brayshaw offered an update on the situation Thursday, saying there are still more than two weeks remaining in the 30-day quarantine mandated by the State Board of Animal Health. Dr. Brayshaw explained that canine influenza has been fairly rare in Minnesota, with only a few dozen cases since the virus first showed up in 2016. He calls the situation that swept through AHS facilities "unprecedented" and said there are only two options to deal with the highly-contagious virus: Either quarantine, which is a massive undertaking for an organization the size of AHS, or euthanize every animal on premises. He said there was little doubt which path they would take.

"These are healthy, good animals we want to get out into the community," Brayshaw said.

There is a vaccine for this particular strain of canine influenza, H3N2, but the outbreak has impacted shelters in addition to the ones operated by AHS and increased demand has created a significant backlog. Bayshaw says vaccine makers are ramping up production, but there is a lag time that is currently impacting the supply AHS can access. 

Facilities impacted by the canine influenza outbreak have to meet three criteria in order to reopen:

  • Get 30 days past the last dog who exhibited symptoms of the virus
  • Pass a check by the board of animal health
  • Make sure AHS, the state AND those who adopt feel comfortable with the health of impacted animals

While Dr. Brayshaw is confident things will be up and running at the end of 30 days, the quarantine has had a significant financial impact on AHS. Dogs have required additional care, facilities have needed stepped-up cleaning and sterilizing, and at the same time revenue from adoptions, medical care and training classes has stopped. 

The Animal Humane Society is driven by donors. If you'd like to contribute, access the AHS website. Brayshaw says a number of large donors have agreed to match funds up to $50,000. 




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