Hillsborough County confims two more cases of Parvovirus, rescue groups stop pulling dogs

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. - Hillsborough County administrators confirm two more cases of puppies infected with the highly contagious Parvovirus.

They met Tuesday to address protocol surrounding a recent string of cases inside Hillsborough County Animal Services.

Tuesday afternoon, Hillsborough County called the virus "eradicated". By Tuesday evening, Communications Director Lori Hudson updated ABC Action News with two more positive cases.

Now, some rescue groups are boycotting the shelter, calling the condition of the animals "too risky".

"I've got senior dogs. I've got dogs that have just been through surgery," Bill Gray said. "It would be a disservice to the promise I made them if I brought parvo home, and they got sick and died."

Most of the dogs at Second Chance Boxer Rescue in Plant City faced euthanasia before meeting each other. Gray considers himself a small rescue, one that only pulls about 15 dogs a year from Hillsborough County Animal Services. For those 15 dogs, however, leaving the shelter meant staying alive.  

And yet, Gray says he can't risk saving any more dogs for fear that one parvo case could wipe out his rescue.

"We take the bad luck, the dogs nobody else wants," Gray explained. "I just can't risk bringing it here."

County administration claimed they contained the virus, but ABC Action News obtained records that show at least 8 cases of the deadly Parvovirus inside HCAS over the last week. The dogs were treated or housed in 5 different wings.

One dog, a year-old Husky named "Venus", tested positive for parvo but was returned to her kennel and found dead the next morning despite bloody diarrhea.

Venus arrived at HCAS about a month ago. Because the virus incubation period ranges from 10-14 days, veterinarians tell ABC Action News it is likely she contracted the highly contagious disease inside the shelter. It is unclear why she waited so long for adoption, despite several applications from interested adopters.

Additionally, ABC Action News alerted management to the case of Brittany and Cole Calhoun, who recently adopted two 4-month-old German Shepherd mix puppies from HCAS, only one of which survived. "Sulley" died of parvo Sunday evening. His sister, "Sasha" is now fighting the virus.

Dogma Dog Rescue Founder Amy Howland rescues about 75 dogs a year from Hillsborough County. She's seen parvo cases before, but this time, she says no one's communicated with her rescue.

She also plans to stop pulling dogs from HCAS for the near future.

"We can't risk it for our own personal dogs. We can't risk adopting out a sick dog to the public," Howland said.

According to the Hillsborough County Communications Department, the virus has been contained.

Inside sources say there's no way to know that for sure because staff is not testing every animal. They spoke to ABC Action News anonymously for fear of losing their jobs.

"I don't want the message to be, 'Don't adopt animals from Hillsborough County Animal Services,'" said Humane Society of Tampa Bay Executive Director Sherry Silk.

Silk calls parvo a regular visitor at shelters in the summer. HSTB plans to continue rescuing dogs as they normally do.

"They should stand behind our animals. We've adopted animals that have gotten sick," Silk said.

HSTB rescues more dogs from HCAS than all other rescues combined. Private rescues like Howland's account for about 15% of HCAS rescues.

"It breaks my heart the dogs that I'm not going to be able to help," Howland said.

A self-avowed "veteran foster mom", Laura Page remains committed to fostering animals from HCAS.

"As long as I live in this county, I will not stop saving lives from HCAS," she said. "However, until there is assurance that the parvovirus outbreak has been properly remediated, I have enormous concerns."

Page plans to take extra precautions, like regular use of bleach each time she returns from HCAS.

According to Hillsborough County's Communication Department, officials are working diligently to address any issues, and plan to release more information once they've gathered data and determined what changes, if any, will follow.

ABC Action News made several attempts to contact HCAS Director Ian Hallett. He did not respond.

Hillsborough County announced Tuesday night that they will hold a press conference Wednesday at 2pm in downtown Tampa.

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