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In order to stop the spread of an upper respiratory infection outbreak in the Pocatello Animal Services shelter, officials have chosen to cull the population of cats at the shelter.
In August, officials started to notice a number of cats at the shelter with symptoms. After a week of treatment, officials found the cats were not responding to treatment and started clinical blood work and lab work. Results showed that the upper respiratory infection was being caused by the feline herpes virus and a mycoplasma infection. After consulting with local veterinarians and the Idaho Humane Society, officials found that the entire population of cats at the shelter was likely infected and the best course of action was to euthanize the animals.
“It is with a very, very heavy heart that this decision was made,” says Mary Remer, Animal Services Director for the City of Pocatello. “We reviewed as many options as possible but ultimately to defeat this outbreak we have to begin anew.”
Remer also says the virus and its underlying condition is carried by many cats but symptoms do not appear until the animal is under stress. Once symptoms appear, the virus can be fatal. When symptoms do appear, the cat has already begun spreading the infection. This virus is breed specific and does not affect dogs.
“Placing these cats into foster homes would have resulted in cats already in the home becoming infected and spreading the virus or leaving a high chance of bringing the virus back,” said Remer. “We would have loved to place these cats into homes, but given the high probability of spreading the infection it was not a risk we were willing to take.”
Officials have reviewed the shelter’s cleaning and vaccination policy and found that it is in line with national standards and the University of California-Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program guidelines. However, shelter staff has voluntarily increased airflow to the cat holding rooms by 15 percent and added another step to the shelter’s cleaning protocol as a precaution. Shelter employees have also cleaned and disinfected all cat areas and also created separate areas for new arrivals to help decrease the possibility of introducing the virus to the general population at the shelter.