Dear Volunteers, Partners, Veterinarians, and Stakeholders,

Staff from HCAS recently attended the Maddie’s Fund Shelter Medicine Conference in Jacksonville and learned about new research on upper respiratory viruses including a new PCR test from Cornell University. Upon their return, staff decided to proactively gather eleven samples from dogs with and without clinical symptoms of upper respiratory infections (URI) and submit them to Cornell University. This weekend, we received the results, which revealed the presence of coronavirus and pneumovirus in the shelter. It is not possible to say when this virus may have entered the shelter because tests for them were not available to us before.

I have attached a handout from the University of Florida Shelter Medicine program on these viruses. The pneumovirus is significant because it lasts longer, is more contagious, and can sometimes cause pneumonia or other complications. The pneumovirus was first discovered in 2010 and has been reported in only a few Florida communities, Maryland, New York, and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, there is no vaccination for the virus.

For the shelter, this is significant because, in order to break the virus cycle, animals must be quarantined and intake limited. For these reasons, the following steps will be taken for the next two weeks or until a veterinarian determines that the shelter has broken the infection cycle:

– Dog intake at the shelter and in the field will be limited to dangerous dogs, dogs that have bitten a person, and sick or injured dogs.

– Owner surrender dogs will not be accepted – they will be asked to contact other shelters and rescue groups, rehome the dog if possible, or hang on to the dog for a few weeks.

– Dogs will not be allowed to leave the shelter until veterinarians determine that they do not present a risk; dogs with adoption and rescue applications will be sheltered and treated medically if necessary. The shelter will not euthanize to control the disease. However, some amount of euthanasia will occur due to the regular disposition process (e.g., bite releases, animals not responding to medical treatment, etc.)

– The public will be asked to help support the shelter by keeping stray animals and posting flyers and signs as well as using electronic media to search for owners (e.g., Craigslist, neighborhood association newsletters, etc.)

– The pubic will be asked to search for pets on-line first, and only come to the shelter if they think that their dog may be here. Staff will escort them around the shelter.

– We will not be walking any dogs until further notice in order to be extra cautious.

IMPORTANT: Cat intake, adoption, rescue, and returns-to-owner will continue as usual. These viruses are not contagious to cats.

Lastly, one of the dogs tested very lightly for distemper. The University of Florida says that this may just be the result of vaccinating the dog. The dog was adopted out on 11/1/13 and went home with antibiotics for a slight cough. However, the owner reports that the cough is going away and that the dog is very active and has a big appetite. A veterinary technician and an animal control officer visited the adopter today to observe the dogs condition and gather a second sample, which will confirm or deny the presence of distemper. We hope to have those results by early next week.

If you are fostering a dog from us, have recently rescued a dog from us, or have a dog at home with any upper respiratory symptoms, please let your veterinarian know about this information.

We will continue to update you on changes to our operations as well as new information about the viruses. Please keep in mind that we have seen a decrease in URI in the shelter and as reported by the veterinary community through post adoption surveys. The test results reflect what viruses are in our community and not an increase in illness.

Thank you for your support as we undertake a massive effort to rid the shelter of this virus.


Ian Hallett, MPA
Director of Animal Services
Hillsborough County BOC
office: (813) 744-5350
fax: (813) 612-914
Please note: all correspondence to or from this office is subject to Florida’s Public Records laws.