Animal Welfare

Dallas Deals with Influx of Canine Upper Respiratory Infections with Help From Residents

According to Dallas Animal Services, the dogs that are part of the incentive program have been exposed to canine upper respiratory infection, but not all show symptoms.
According to Dallas Animal Services, the dogs that are part of the incentive program have been exposed to canine upper respiratory infection, but not all show symptoms. Jacob Vaughn
Shelters across the region have been seeing an influx in canine upper respiratory infections in recent months, and Dallas hasn’t been spared. Dallas Animal Services has been trying to stop the spread of these infections at its shelter off North Westmoreland Road and has asked the public for help.

The city’s animal services needed to create room in the shelter for a three-day period to stop the spread of the infection, and it added some incentive to those willing to help. On Dec. 8, DAS put out the call: 150 dogs needed to be out of the shelter that weekend. People who fostered medium or large dogs would get a $150 gift card. On top of that, DAS would provide the fosters with training, supply crates, bowls and food, and cover 100% of the foster dog’s vet costs.

This infection is rarely life-threatening, according to DAS. However, it spreads quickly and can be hard to contain in a shelter environment. Dogs that are infected will exhibit human flu-like symptoms: coughing, sneezing, lethargy and congestion. Within one to two weeks, the infection will go away as long as the dog gets rest and stays hydrated. In more severe cases, a dog may develop secondary infections like pneumonia and require additional treatment.

DAS worked with the University of Wisconsin–Madison Shelter Medicine Program to develop a plan that may put a dent in the rate of infection at the city’s shelter.

“This plan requires [DAS] to divide its building, staffing, and supplies in half and operate two completely independent shelters within one building,” Melissa Webber, DAS director, said in a memo earlier this month. “It will be taxing on the team, but we understand the importance of addressing this promptly to avoid endemic illness in our shelter.”

More space would be needed in the shelter if the plan was to work. That’s where the fosters come in. If enough people fostered dogs, and the shelter slowed its intake, DAS could pull it all off. The public did not disappoint.

On Thursday, DAS said in a press release that 160 dogs were fostered. More are scheduled for foster, adoption or rescue this week.

Since the idea worked so well, DAS extended the offer for the next 100 medium and large dogs. People looking to foster, adopt or rescue a dog can visit the DAS shelter at 1818 N. Westmoreland Road. Operating hours are 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday; and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. A foster application can be completed the same day you take a dog home. The organization Friends of DAS will provide the gift card to foster homes after they’ve had the dog for 14 days.

“We are hopeful that this momentum will carry us into the new year,” Webber said in the press release. “We have between 30 to 60 dogs arrive at the shelter each day, so the need is ongoing.”
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

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