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AHS reopening 2 adoption centers following canine influenza outbreak

The facilities in Golden Valley and Coon Rapids will resume regular operations at noon Tuesday. The Woodbury adoption center restarted operations last week.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn — Officials are crossing their fingers that they are at the peak of the canine influenza outbreak in the Twin Cities. 

This comes as the Animal Humane Society reopens more locations for adoption.

Volunteer Anita Carteaux is as enthusiastic as the pups to finally have prospective pet owners back at the Golden Valley locations. 

"Welcome!" Carteaux said as a couple walked into the doors. "I want to hug everybody!"

Carteaux said she felt for the sick pups. 

The Animal Humane Society's three Twin Cities adoption centers were quarantined by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health in April. Nearly 200 dogs were suspected of having canine influenza, according to the nonprofit. A few died. 

"I hate seeing them suffer," said Carteaux. 

Graham Brayshaw, the head vet for the nonprofit, said the two shelters were cleared last week by the board. The Woodbury location previously opened back up to adoptions earlier in the month. 

Now, the shelters will have to catch up. 

"It's not just these several hundred animals internally that we've cared for," said Brayshaw. "But we haven't been able to get those hundreds and potentially thousand plus animals that we could have helped during this month. "

Tony Smith was one of the visitors who lined up Tuesday morning in front of the shelter doors before the location opened. 

"We missed having a dog at home so we found him on the website," he said as he gestured toward a chocolate Labrador. "It was the day before they shut down with the dog flu." 

Smith lost his family dog, Otis, in January. On Tuesday, he visited Wally. 

"We've already called him Otis a few times," he said. 

After a long wait, Wally will be adopted by Smith. 

Even though the Animal Humane Society is so far out of the clear, experts say dog owners need to remain vigilant.

According to Veronica Bartsch, the senior veterinarian with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, there are 26 confirmed cases of the illness in the community outside of the shelters. 

She suspects there are hundreds of more community cases. Bartsch said she believes the state is through the worst of the outbreak. 

"I'm hopeful," she said. "Yes, I'm hopeful. But the key to that happening is we really need good dog owners to follow our guidance."

The board still recommends avoiding dog parks and other places that are difficult to control dog-to-dog contact. They said at-risk dogs who have other illnesses should stay away from daycare and sick pups need to stay home and quarantine.

Staff at the shelter said they will continue to monitor the pups so they can move on to their forever homes.

The animal welfare organization went into quarantine April 6 after dogs began showing symptoms. AHS said at the time it was suspected the virus came in with animals that arrived from another shelter March 23. Due to that exposure, the organization took what it called "proactive steps" to contain the canine influenza. 

Along with adoptions, AHS halted veterinary procedures and on-site training. In all, it was estimated the shutdown and quarantine cost the organization well over $1 million. Dogs were even kept away from the iconic "Walk for Animals" fundraiser on May 6, which had a significant impact on the event.



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