A rare and potentially deadly illness has wreaked havoc on the city animal shelter system, killing several dogs and leading officials to shut down a Brooklyn facility for almost a week.
At least four dogs - and possibly a dozen more - were killed by an outbreak of Streptoccocus equi subsp. zooepidemicus, also known as Strep Zoo, at Animal Care & Control's Brooklyn shelter.
Worried animal rescuers said the toll might be even greater, fearing additional dogs could have been infected or felled by the dangerous bug before it was discovered.
AC&C officials said the danger to other dogs has passed and reopened the Brooklyn shelter late Monday. The shelter was closed last week to people who wanted to drop off and adopt dogs, but had continued to take in stray and unwanted cats.
Everyone, including police officers and rescuers with stray animals, were redirected to AC&C's Manhattan shelter, which is undergoing renovations.
"We didn't want this to spread. We started isolation with the sick animals," said AC&C spokesman Richard Gentles. "There is no instance of Strep Zoo in any of the other shelters."
Gentles declined to call the incident an "outbreak" and said all the animals were put on penicillin as a precaution.
Animal rescuer Kerry Clare said most of the six dogs her group took in from AC&C last month have fallen ill.
Clare, who helps run the Middletown, N.Y.-based Pets Alive shelter and sanctuary, said shortly after taking 2-year-old mutt Mindy from the Brooklyn shelter, the pooch started bleeding from the nose. Three other rescued dogs then began to vomit blood.
"We put all of our 80 dogs on penicillin twice a day and had to shut our own doors for nine days to avoid infecting the community," said Clare. "This is heartbreaking and a financial disaster for a shelter like us."
AC&C, a nonprofit that operates under a contract with the Health Department, has long struggled with underfunding, overcrowding and staff turnover.
Shelter officials were recently told by the Health Department they would have to cut almost $500,000 from their $8.6 million firstname.lastname@example.org