Jacksonville Humane Society CEO explains highly contagious virus which caused 130 dogs to quarantine at ACPS shelter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Over 100 dogs at Jacksonville’s Animal Care and Protective Services (ACPS) shelter are still under quarantine Friday after one dog tested positive for pneumovirus, which is a highly contagious respiratory virus.

The 130 dogs have to remain in quarantine for at least 14 days, and another dog is being monitored very closely because it was showing mild upper respiratory symptoms. That dog has been tested for the virus and ACPS is awaiting results.

City officials said Thursday that ACPS hasn’t had a positive test for this virus since 2020.

News4JAX visited a dog park to talk to pet owners about the highly contagious virus and most of them said they had not heard of the virus before.

Shanna Simpson is a dog mom of two, who said she was unfamiliar with pneumovirus but takes the responsibility for her dogs’ health very seriously.

“Anytime I’ve ever had any issues with my dogs, we usually go to a vet,” Simpson said.

Jacksonville Humane Society CEO Denise Deisler said the virus is very transmissible among dogs, which is why the ACPS staff acted quickly to protect the other dogs.

“It’s not unlike what we refer to as kennel cough,” Deisler said.

Pneumovirus symptoms include coughing, discharge from the nose and eyes and a decrease in energy. In more severe cases, symptoms may progress to include pneumonia or difficulty breathing, city officials said. Symptoms can last up to five days.

The only way to differentiate between kennel cough and pneumovirus is to take the dog to a veterinarian, Deisler said.

There is no vaccine to protect dogs against pneumovirus, so preventing it from spreading to healthy dogs and eliminating it from the shelter is the priority, city officials said.

Deisler tested dogs at the human society at the request of ACPS and none of the results were positive.

Deisler also said she doesn’t want the virus to keep people away from adopting or fostering a dog from ACPS because the virus will not harm humans and removing a sick dog from the building will help it heal.

“In a shelter environment, they’ve got the additional problem of stress,” Deisler said. “Unlike us, when we have a cold, we can cozy in bed, pull the blankie up and ignore the rest of the world. The dogs are in the same environment, and it’s a stressful environment. So that makes it harder for them to recover than if they were in a home.”

The ACPS adoption center will remain open, but public access to dog housing areas will be limited. Adopters will be made aware of the possible pneumovirus exposure, educated on symptoms to watch for (coughing, sneezing, nasal and ocular discharge), and instructed on how to receive follow up medical care should it be needed.

Adopters and fosters will also be counseled on separating their new dog from other dogs as well as avoiding dog parks, pet stores, and other areas frequented by dogs.

ACPS’ greatest need right now is foster homes and adopters for medium and large adoptable dogs that shelter personnel do not believe have been exposed to pneumovirus as well as those that have been exposed.

Foster homes should be able to commit to caring for a medium or large size dog for a minimum of two weeks.

All supplies and medical care will be provided. The body’s ability to fight illness is greatly compromised by stress so dogs are best supported by being cared for outside of the shelter.

If you have adopted a dog from the shelter in the last two weeks and have noted coughing, sneezing, or discharge from the eyes or nose, please contact the adoption center by emailing JaxPets@coj.net.

For general questions regarding canine pneumovirus, contact shelter staff by emailing JaxPets@coj.net.

About the Authors:

Khalil Maycock joined the News4JAX team in November 2022 after reporting in Des Moines, IA.