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Petfinder.com gives $15,000 to help vaccinate county's shelter dogs

Funds will go toward kennel cough shots

POSTED: April 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Rhonda Quist prepares to give a dog at Hall County's humane society the intranasal vaccine bordetella Friday afternoon at the Hall County animal shelter. Petfinder.com has donated a $15,000 grant to buy the vaccines for kennel cough, a highly contagious respiratory virus.

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The Humane Society of Hall County has received a $15,000 grant that will help dogs stay healthy while they’re awaiting adoption.

The money will allow the shelter to vaccinate incoming dogs against infectious tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough. It’s a highly contagious respiratory virus that triggers a hacking cough and can spread easily in boarding kennels.

"In itself, it’s not life-threatening, but it can add to health problems the animal already has and increase the likelihood that it will be euthanized," said Nancy McKenney, executive director of the Petfinder.com Foundation, which funded the grant.

McKenney said the foundation has been looking at various ways for shelters to increase their rate of pet adoptions and decrease the need for euthanasia. The foundation recently started a pilot project to see if preventing kennel cough could help. Grants have been awarded to six humane societies, including Hall’s.

And the groups didn’t even have to apply for the money. McKenney said the foundation chose agencies that are very active in using the Petfinder.com Web site.

"I approached Rick (Aiken, president of the Humane Society of Hall County), who has a great reputation," she said. "I actually came out and visited the shelter, and it seemed to be a well-run organization."

To receive the grant, shelters had to agree to track and share their statistics with the foundation. The Hall agency already monitors its numbers closely, so that wasn’t a problem.

Aiken said when Petfinder approached him with the grant offer, it was almost like money falling from heaven.

"We jumped right on it," he said. "It’s really a very rewarding thing for us."

The Hall shelter had been wanting to vaccinate dogs for kennel cough, but there were higher priorities. All adoptable dogs that come in are already immunized against parvovirus and distemper, two contagious diseases that can be lethal.

But while kennel cough doesn’t usually kill a dog directly, it’s still a problem.

"In most shelters, if a dog has kennel cough, it is euthanized to keep the virus from spreading," said Aiken. "We usually don’t have to euthanize, because we have an isolation room."

But a dog that gets kennel cough can sometimes develop a secondary infection. "In a kennel situation, animals can be stressed, and their immune system can be a little bit compromised," Aiken said.

And no one wants to adopt a sick dog. A seriously ill dog is almost always euthanized to make room for more healthy animals.

Aiken emphasized that if anyone adopts a dog from the Hall shelter and it becomes ill a few days later, the humane society will treat the infection at no charge.

But there’s less likelihood now that a dog will get sick. As of Tuesday, the humane society began giving the kennel cough vaccine at the same time as those for parvo and distemper.

McKenney said the advantage of the kennel cough vaccine is that it’s administered intranasally, as a squirt of medicine into the nose, rather than by injection.

"That provides almost immediate protection (against the disease)," she said.

Aiken said the humane society was able to purchase the vaccine at a reasonable price from Merial Limited, a veterinary pharmaceutical company in Duluth. There are enough doses to last approximately one year.

Aiken said eliminating the kennel cough virus will give shelter workers one less thing to worry about.

"Anytime you get a lot of animals together, if one of them’s got (the virus), it’s airborne and it can run through a kennel pretty fast," he said.



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