With its shelters overcrowded and four dogs already dead of a respiratory disease spreading in them, the San Diego Humane Society is offering no-fee adoptions — plus cash for less committal dog lovers to foster a family of puppies.
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The urgent push to clear its shelters comes as the organization operates at 150 percent of its capacity for dogs, leading to crowding that has made it easier for pathogens to spread among them.
The San Diego Humane Society has halted owner surrenders of dogs until the new year, except in emergencies, due to an outbreak of the bacteria known as strep zoo, along with another bacterial infection that has made the disease more severe than it usually is.
Now what it needs most urgently is for people to take large dogs or dogs with litters of puppies — even temporarily.
Anybody who commits to taking a mom and puppies for at least two weeks will get a $100 Visa gift card. Plus, adoption fees for both puppies and dogs are $0 through Dec. 1 and then are $25 through Dec. 17.
“The best thing for the dogs is to get out of the shelter,” said Dr. Laura Bunke, a veterinarian with the Humane Society. She said all dogs with symptoms of strep zoo and the bacterial infection have been treated with antibiotics to help prevent them from infecting other dogs.
For all the urgency of its efforts to reduce its shelter population, Bunke said the Humane Society has not seen any signs in its animals of a different, still-unidentified respiratory illness that has been reported elsewhere.
“We are not seeing that,” she said. “We did send out more testing than we normally would because of the more severe signs, but every test we have sent out has tested positive for something known.”
To keep dogs safe this season, Bunke recommends owners make sure their dogs are up to date on their vaccines and their flea and tick medication, and consider taking a break from heavily-trafficked dog parks and other places where dogs from different households congregate.
San Diego County’s shelters in Bonita and Carlsbad also have unusually high numbers of dogs in their care now, especially larger dogs, and need people to foster them.
To foster a pet from the Humane Society, visit sdhumane.org/foster. To adopt a pet from a county shelter, visit sddac.com/content/sdc/das/adopt.html, or to foster, visit sddac.com/content/sdc/das/adopt/tweenie.html.