Wake County Animal Center pauses services to combat dog flu outbreak

Shelter to close to public beginning Friday, Oct. 6, for quarantine for an undetermined length of time

In response to a recent outbreak of canine influenza including the deaths of two dogs, the Wake County Animal Center is taking proactive steps to ensure the health and safety of animals and the community. The shelter will close beginning Friday, Oct. 6 for at least 35 days to help contain the outbreak and the center will stop accepting animals to prevent new cases and protect the total of 449 animals currently being cared for at the shelter.

“As our community knows all too well, the number of pets coming to us has been pushing our shelter past capacity for well over a year – and unfortunately, it’s that situation – tons of dogs living together in one space – that’s the perfect breeding ground for viruses like this,” said Wake County Commissioner Cheryl Stallings. “Animal Center staff are working overtime trying to quarantine, treat and care for these pets – but to do it most effectively, we need to temporarily close. It’s not a decision we’re taking lightly.”

At this time, there have been two dogs that tested positive for canine influenza, and unfortunately both were fatal. Approximately 57 dogs have been diagnosed with upper respiratory infections since September 15, 2023 – an uncommonly high number of cases.

Cases of dog flu have been on the rise across North Carolina, with veterinarians reporting that many dogs are picking up the respiratory illness after stays at boarding or day care facilities. While most dogs recover after two to three weeks, the severity of the illness can range from no symptoms to pets developing secondary infections that lead to pneumonia and sometimes death. The virus spreads through the respiratory droplets when dogs cough or sneeze and there are cases of the virus being transmitted to cats.

As staff members work to quarantine, treat and care for the affected animals in the shelter over the next month, the following services will be affected:

  • Adoptions: Adoptions of all pets, including dogs, cats and other small animals, are being paused. This means the October Pit Bull adoption special has been cancelled.
  • Community Pet Days: Community Pet Days have been cancelled as well.
  • Surrenders: The Wake County Animal Center will NOT allow owners to surrender any animals during this closure. Anyone with an existing appointment to surrender a pet will be notified of their cancellation.
  • Animal Control: All five Animal Control agencies across county (Wake County, Raleigh, Cary, Garner and Holly Springs) will continue responding to emergency animal calls, however, they will not be picking up strays or owner surrenders in the field.
  • Bite Animals: The Animal Center often holds pets on quarantine following bite incidents, however, at this time, those animals will need to be quarantined instead at veterinary offices or in private homes.

Services that will continue to be offered:

  • Lost Pets: If you believe your pet is currently at the Animal Center, please call at 919-212-PETS (7387) for instructions on providing proof of ownership and the process to reclaim your pet. Please note that lost pet walk-thrus inside the building will not be offered during the quarantine period.
  • Owner-Requested Euthanasia: If you need to euthanize your pet due to health or behavioral issues, you can call and request an appointment for euthanasia. Owners will be asked to provide veterinary notes detailing the animal's medical condition or specific behavioral issues. Euthanasia requested by owners will be carried out immediately upon surrender to the Animal Center. Staff reserves the right to refuse this service if the animal does not appear to be in need of euthanasia. Owners will then be referred to a private veterinarian for assistance.
  • Phone Support for Rehoming: If you need to rehome your pet and adopted it from a local organization, we recommend reaching out to them for assistance in finding a new home for your pet or returning it to their programs. We strongly encourage pet owners to work to rehome their pet by using these tips.
  • Phone Support for Stray Pets: If you've found a stray pet and are looking to locate its owner, we provide phone support and guidance on how to reunite the pet with its owner.

“We pride ourselves on the care we provide to the animals that come to us and being a partner to our community,” said Dr. Jennifer Federico, the director of the Wake County Animal Center. “This drastic measure is necessary to help stop the spread of this virus and save as many lives as possible. More than ever, we need our community partners and residents to step up and help people rehome pets as well as reunite lost pets with their owners. We know this virus is in the community and we want all pet owners to do what they can to take care of their own animals and work to keep our pet population as healthy as possible.”

Tips for keeping your pets safe include:

  • Making sure your pet follows a recommended vaccine schedule.
  • If you board your pet, make sure the kennel is clean and well maintained, and has an isolation and care plan for dogs that develop signs of kennel cough or other illness.
  • Do not take your pets to dog parks or other places if they have signs of kennel cough or other infectious diseases. Keep your dog at home for three weeks after recovery.
  • Make sure your pet has current ID tags with your address and phone number clearly displayed so that your pet can be returned to you as soon as possible.
  • Keep your pet in overall good health – a strong immune system is the best defense against infection.  
  • At this time, we are recommending that owners not gather with other unknown dogs (i.e., dog parks, dog events, etc.) as the risk of disease spread is high. Owners should consult with their veterinarian about risks associated with boarding and daycares for their dogs.

If you think your dog may have the flu, follow these steps:

  • Call your veterinarian before going to their office and let them know your dog’s symptoms. This will allow the veterinarian to determine how to minimize exposure within the practice and prepare for your dog’s arrival.
  • Keep your dog away from other dogs and public areas until your dog is seen by your veterinarian.
  • The only way to confirm whether your dog has canine influenza is to have your veterinarian test for the virus. Generally, older dogs, younger dogs and dogs with a weakened immune system are more susceptible.

View these frequently asked questions.

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