New Britain targets potentially deadly canine virus

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH)– Preventing a potentially deadly virus outbreak, this one targeting a family pet, New Britain is the only city in Connecticut to pass an ordinance to get dogs vaccinated for the parvovirus.

Outbreaks of the parvovirus are a public health issue for dogs in major urban centers. Symptoms include severe vomiting, and diarrhea. It’s tough to treat and usually fatal for young dogs.

The dogs at the animal shelter in New Britian are people-friendly, most are trained, some are even neutered, but every one was abandoned.

“These dogs are dumped out on the streets and they become our problem,” said New Britain Police Sgt. Paula Keller.

The problem, says Sgt. Keller who supervises the shelter, is that these dogs are likely not vaccinated against the deadly and contagious parvovirus.

“If the dogs are running around outside, they are exposed to this fecal matter and that’s where the parvovirus lives,” said Sgt. Keller.

Outbreaks are common. The shelter was shutdown three times this summer.

“We found that some of the dogs that we’ve been taking, they are fine when they come in, five days later they start getting sick, they get parvovirus,” said Sgt. Keller.

To get it under control, the city passed an ordinance that requires the parvo vaccine for dogs as part of getting the state-mandated dog license. It took effect July 1st.

Animal control officers are going door-to-door, raising awareness in neighborhoods.

“We actually basically go to neighborhoods where we’ve been getting an influx of stray dogs or where we’ve had reports of parvovirus,” said Sgt. Keller. “Sometimes the veterinarians will call us.”

Veterinarians, like Dr. Christine Puskaric at Compassionate Care Veterinary Hospital, are seeing compliance.

“A lot of pet owners in New Britain that are our clients were calling here on a regular basis when they were renewing their licenses with the town to make sure their dogs were vaccinated for the parvovirus,” said Dr. Puskaric. “I think the most important thing to do is vaccinate, that’s the only way we are going to protect them.”

Sgt. Keller says it comes down to being a responsible dog owner.

“If people know that we are going to be knocking on their doors, asking for these licenses, we’re going to be asking them to get their dogs up to date on their vaccines, one of two things is going to happen,” said Sgt. Keller. “They are going to, at some point going to, decide they aren’t going to get a dog, or they are going to start complying with the state and local dog laws.”

There is a hefty fine for not complying, more than $200, but right now the focus is to educate everyone on the new ordinance.

The parvo vaccine can cost $20-30. There are low-cost vaccine programs available.

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