Bacteria infects St. Johns County Pet Center

All dogs must be adopted before decontamination begins

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - An infectious bacteria is making its way through the St. Johns County Pet Center, which, as a result, is not able to admit any new dogs.

The bacteria, called Mycoplasma, is highly contagious.

Animal Control officials say they're not able to kill the bacteria until every dog is adopted out, and they're asking the community to step up in finding the remaining 12 dogs in the shelter a home.

"It's very important that we empty our shelter, because we cannot decontaminate while there are animals in our system," said Paul Studivant, of St. Johns County Animal Control.

The bacteria has not only infected the pet center, but has also made some of the dogs sick.

"When we realized that we weren't dealing with kennel cough, lab tests had to be ran," Studivant said. "It was confirmed through a lab that we were dealing with a bacteria that is highly contagious and infectious."

Mycoplasma is a bacterial infection that, once it finds its way into a dog's lungs, it can have a miserable effect.

"They're coughing and they're sneezing. They have nasal discharge," said veterinarian Dr. Herb Loeman.

He said the bacteria, although treatable, is so contagious that every dog must be out before the decontamination process can begin. And admitting new dogs into the center is a no-go.

"There's always a turnover. Dogs coming in, dogs going out. Dogs going in, dogs coming out," Loeman said. "So the disease is just being spread from one dog to another. From one kennel to another kennel. It never really gets broke."

The decontamination process may be a simple one, but it's time-consuming. Absolutely everything must be bleached from top to bottom. That includes everything from the cages to the dogs dishes and even the drains.

Those with Animal Control say their hope is to be back open by next week. But that can only happen if the public steps up.

"All fees have been waived for adoptions and rescues. So this is a free home, it's a free chance to save a life," Studivant said.

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