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Dog Flu Hits Florence Shelter

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) - A case of dog flu has workers and volunteers at a local animal shelter scrambling to keep the virus from spreading.

The Florence Animal Shelter discovered the case last week and have temporarily suspended animal drop-offs.

Outside the Florence Animal Shelter, all appears normal.  But for the last three days, workers and volunteers have been bleaching and scrubbing every surface inside the shelter.

On Friday, a Florence veterinarian discovered one dog had contracted H3N8, or dog flu as it's commonly known.

"We pick up strays and animals are brought to us all day,” says Vinny Grosso, the Florence Animal Control Supervisor. “It only takes one, and we probably had over a hundred dogs in the shelter, and you just have one that comes in there coughing and sneezing, and before you know it, it's spread to the others."

Grosso says that one dog got diagnosed with the flu, and 17 are being treated for symptoms of the virus.

As for the healthy dogs, Grosso says volunteers have been able to find foster homes for them.

"The ones that we're worried about are mainly the puppies and the senior dogs. The older dogs are the ones that are more susceptible, just like humans when it comes to the flu," said Grosso.  "The main thing we have to do now is we just have to be vigilant."

Grosso says he started tracking the dog flu's progress through the United States a few years ago.  Now that it's here, he says his department must make changes to keep the disease from coming back.

Grosso says dog owners should not be as concerned about their pet getting the dog flu.

"Your dog in the backyard is probably never going to get this, because it's not going to come in contact with other dogs that are infected,” Grosso says. “But, when you have a hundred animals in one building, it only takes one to come in and infect it."

And with the kennels empty, Florence Animal Control officers hope they now have the dog flu eliminated from their building.

Florence Animal Control is not accepting strays or pet drop-off until later this week.

Two dogs did die from the dog flu at the shelter, but as of now, none of the dogs have had to be put down.

According to animal control officers, humans cannot get this particular type of flu.

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