Shelter closed after 12 dogs die from illness

The shelter has been closed since early last week, facility director Tracy Thompson told the AJC. That's when the state department of agriculture enacted a mandatory quarantine, meaning the shelter cannot take in or release any animals.

The first dog to die was found on Jan. 7, and had appeared fine just 20 minutes earlier, Thompson said. A person hoping to reclaim a lost pet noticed the animal and alerted shelter employees.

"This was strange, but being an open admission shelter and taking in animals from all over the county, we do not know what has happened to them prior to coming into our shelter," Thompson said.

Within days, four additional seemingly healthy dogs died, she said. The shelter temporarily stopped allowing people to adopt dogs or puppies.

A local veterinarian determined that one animal had signs of pneumonia, but the cause of the illness was not determined, Thompson said. Tissue samples were also sent to the University of Georgia.

On Jan. 19, the state agriculture department placed the facility on quarantine. Two days later, another dog died. A necropsy performed at UGA determined the dog died from "strep zoo," which typically occurs in horses, Thompson said.

The disease is treatable with penicillin, Thompson said, and is killed on surfaces with bleach.

All animals at the shelter that may have been exposed to the bacteria are on antibiotics, she said. The shelter facility also has been cleaned.

"Once all have been treated for seven days, we should be safe to reopen," Thompson said.

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