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N. Phila. PSPCA shelter closed by outbreak

The shelter is on lockdown after discovery of upper-respiratory infection among dogs.

AN OUTBREAK OF infection in the past two weeks has closed the Pennsylvania SPCA adoption center on Erie Avenue near B Street in North Philadelphia.

The upper-respiratory infection is not yet identified, according to PSPCA communications director Liz Romaine. It appears to affect dogs, but not cats or humans. Quarantine measures have been put into place.

The illness was noticed March 12, leading to a shutdown of the entire building for disinfection, said Romaine. The wellness-and-grooming area was reopened the next day, and the surgery room was reopened March 14. Those areas are sealed off from the adoption and kennel areas, she said.

The PSPCA shelter in Danville, Mountour County, also is closed for the same reason.

Romaine said the PSPCA hopes to know in several days when both shelters will reopen. The closures were posted online and on Facebook, but otherwise were not announced.

Simultaneous outbreaks in two locations, 150 miles apart, isn't unusual, Romaine said, because "we transport animals between the two locations."

All adoptions have been on hold since March 12, but Romaine said the PSPCA "will be able to open adoptions for cats within the next couple of days," utilizing a PSPCA recreational vehicle outside the building.

The outbreak has not been linked to deaths of any dogs in the shelter, she said.

The most recent serious outbreak occurred in June 2009, resulting in the deaths of six dogs from Streptococcus zooepidemicus, known as "strep zoo." That situation led to a "population break" in which the shelter was emptied of all animals. That tactic was not necessary this time, said Romaine.

Staffers have been restricted to certain parts of the building. Earlier, some volunteers were told to bring a change of clothes for after their PSPCA shifts.

Canine influenza has been ruled out, said Romaine, adding that testing by outside labs can take more than 10 days.

- Stu Bykofsky

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky