Dozens of dogs at Fairfax County’s animal shelter have become infected recently by a respiratory illness known informally as “kennel cough.”
While it’s common to see some canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC) cases, the current wave has been exacerbated by more dogs staying in the shelter for longer periods of time, according to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter (FCAS).
As of yesterday (Thursday), 42 of the 67 dogs in the shelter at 4500 West Ox Road were symptomatic with CIRDC, which has cold-like symptoms such as coughing and a runny nose, Fairfax County Department of Animal Sheltering Director Reasa Currier told FFXnow.
“Every dog has received an individualized treatment plan from our veterinarian and most dogs are improving quickly without the need for medication,” Currier said, describing the symptoms as generally mild.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, CIRDC comes from a variety of viruses and bacteria and is spread through respiratory droplets. Dogs can catch it through close or direct contact with infected animals, sneezing and coughing, and exposure to contaminated objects, such as toys or water bowls.
Kennel cough doesn’t affect humans and other kinds of animals, but it can spread quickly in congregate settings like a shelter, in part because it’s contagious before symptoms appear. The illness also thrives in humidity and is “exacerbated by stress,” FCAS says.
The shelter says it has “robust daily cleaning protocols,” and staff have been “carefully monitoring all dogs for symptoms,” separating those that are symptomatic from the healthy animals.
However, the biggest challenge has been the size of the shelter’s dog population, which neared 100 dogs earlier this summer.
“[There are] more dogs in our care than the staff and facility can adequately support and dogs remaining in our care for extended periods of time,” Currier said. “Our animal population has increased by 25% over the same period last year while the number of days animals spend in our care has also increased as adoptions have slowed.”
The surge in pet surrenders reflects “complex social and economic circumstances,” led by people moving or encountering other housing-related challenges, Currier says. Though 70% of renters in Fairfax County own a pet, many apartments don’t allow pets, place restrictions on the size or breed, or require a fee or deposit.
Increasing costs for veterinary care and pet supplies, particularly food, may also affect someone’s ability to keep their pet, according to Currier.
In the hopes of encouraging adoptions and reducing surrenders, FCAS is promoting its available pets more frequently, reviewing its adoption process to reduce barriers, and providing more resources to pet owners, including free or low-cost vet care and free temporary boarding for those in crisis.
The shelter is also seeking volunteers who can foster large dogs and asking anyone planning to surrender a dog to try to postpone it for at least two more weeks. Owners are advised to ensure their pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations before turning them in.
“There is not one easy solution to the increase in homeless animals, but it is something we must tackle through multipronged efforts,” Currier said. “We appreciate the support we receive from our generous community who keep our pet food pantry stocked and our team of dedicated volunteers and fosters who allow us to continue to provide exceptional, individualized care to every animal who come in the shelter’s doors despite the growing need.”
A stray llama who was caught running on Fairfax County Parkway in the Fairfax Station area over the weekend has been reunited with her owner, the county’s animal shelter says.
A combination of overhead and body camera footage shared by the Fairfax County Police Department shows officers chasing the animal in a wooded area before managing to corral her.
“A passerby saw a llama out for a jog on the Fairfax County Pkwy near Popes Head Road,” the department said. “After eluding our officers, the llama was found in a backyard and safely taken secured by APP.”
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) December 20, 2022
Police transported the animal to the Fairfax County Animal Shelter (4500 West Ox Road), where she got a temporary home in the facility’s barn.
“The llama was assessed by shelter staff and the shelter veterinarian and found to be in stable condition,” shelter director Reasa Currier told FFXnow. “The shelter staff provided her bedding, food, and water. Shelter staff immediately began searching for her family.”
“We have a stray llama” is the quote of 2022, and maybe a great way to summarize the overall year. https://t.co/QmTH7BRJa9
— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) December 20, 2022
It’s been a year for random animals roaming around the area – zebras in Prince George’s County, a black bear in Tysons Corner and now…?! https://t.co/8R77sBEddj
— Nicole Hawkins (@NicoleHawk) December 20, 2022
Namaste, llama stray 🦙 https://t.co/lYWj1hks24
— Council of DC (@councilofdc) December 20, 2022
In a welcome change of pace from previous unusual animal escapes in the D.C. region, Kolby’s adventure appears to have a happy ending: the shelter’s staff located her owner yesterday (Tuesday).
“He was eager to be reunited with his llama,” Currier said. “…Kolby received a lot of attention from the shelter staff and seemed to enjoy all of it.”
While not as common as horses or sheep, llamas are permitted as livestock in Fairfax County. The zoning ordinance allows up to five llamas per acre of land, provided the property is at least two acres in size — a rule that also applies to their cousins, alpacas.
Should any other llamas pop up and make a scene, Currier advises community members to contact Animal Protection Police, which can be reached at 703-691-2131 or FCPDAnimalProtection@FairfaxCounty.gov.
When Fairfax County’s new animal shelter opens next year, some of its first residents will likely come from across jurisdictional lines.
Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the City of Fairfax to provide services and housing to animals under their care. The city cares for fewer than 100 animals a year. In 2021, it cared for 31 dogs, 20 cats, and 11 other small animals.
On track to open in the spring, the new South County Animal Shelter in Lorton is expected to provide plenty of space for these furry friends.
“[The Department of Animal Services] already has a long history of supporting the City with meeting their animal welfare needs,” a county staff report said. “With the opening of the second facility in Lorton in Spring 2023, DAS will have ample space and appropriate staffing to accommodate additional animals from the City.”
The 23,000-square-foot facility on Lorton Road will be the second county-operated shelter, joining the existing Michael R. Frey Animal Shelter on West Ox Road in Fairfax.
The South County Animal Shelter will likely begin operations in late spring when construction is completed, DAS Director Reasa Currier confirmed to FFXnow.
The board is expected to approve about $2 million to help provide services, staff and maintain the shelter as part of a fiscal year 2022 carryover package.
“This facility will allow us to substantially grow the geographic reach and impact of our work for the residents of Fairfax County,” Currier said by email. “Not only will we be able to create even more families through adoption, but the second shelter will provide a hub for essential services from behavior and training support, veterinary medical care, pet supplies, and other critical services that help keep pets together with their families.”
Currier says the Lorton shelter will be “similar in size and footprint” to the Fairfax one, with 88 dog kennels, 42 cat condos, 2 catios, and a “state-of-the-art” veterinary clinic. There will also be an 20,000-square-foot outdoor space for the animals.
Like other shelters nationwide, the county’s lone animal shelter has faced its share of capacity challenges. Even before recent influxes of rescued beagles as well as cats and rabbits, there was a clear need for more shelter space in the southern part of Fairfax County.
“For too long, the many services and resources provided by [DAS] have been inaccessible for the residents in South County,” Currier said. “We are very excited about the location and are looking forward to serving South County residents and their pets. We are already hearing from residents who live nearby the new shelter who are eager to begin volunteering and participating in our programs.”
The shelter will share a new $30 million building with the South County Police Station, which will be about 31,000 square feet and is expected to open at the same time.
The building will have a number of sustainability features, including electric vehicle charging stations and space for solar panels, and energy-efficient systems. Landscaping will be made up of native plants and be bird-friendly.
The facility is on Lorton Road between the intersections of Workhouse and Hooes roads. Called the “Triangle” by the county, the parcel was specifically acquired in 2001 for public safety use.
In 2015, voters approved a $151 million bond referendum that included money to fund the Lorton project, which broke ground last May.
The floppy-eared, tail-wagging beagles come from Envigo research facility in Cumberland after a judge ordered the facility to relate the dogs due to their inhumane treatment. The facility bred the dogs to be sold to laboratories for animal experimentation.
:Our newest ten are all boys, and they were quiet and well-behaved on the drive back. Once back at the shelter they were so happy to stretch their legs, play with each other, and get lots of attention from shelter staff,” according to the animal shelter.
Reasa Currier, the director of the animal shelter, says that the new beagles are not available yet. They will be neutered but should be available later this week.
The first wave of beagles were adopted “immediately and are thriving in their adoptive homes,” Currier told FFXnow. The shelter had “lines out the door of potential adoptors” for them.
The shelter is working with the Humane Society of the United States to bring the dogs to temporary shelters for adoption.
State Sen. Jennifer Boysko, a Democrat representing the 33rd district, is expected to attend a welcoming today for the beagles at the shelter. State legislators recently signed policies — known as the beagle bills — to protect dogs and cats who are bred for research.
This is likely the last wave of beagles that will be available for adoption of the 4,000 that were rescued.
Staff at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter are hoping that their space will be cleared up — mostly of adoptable animals — with the help of a special event this Saturday (Aug. 27).
In a partnership with NBC4, the shelter is hosting a “Clear the Shelters” adoption event on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the adoption center (4500 West Ox Road).
The shelter has nearly 300 pets that need homes. All fees that are typically required for adoptions will be waived.
“We are way over capacity and need the public to come out this Saturday and adopt one of these wonderful animals,” Reasa Currier, director of the animal shelter, said.
Among the available animals are over 80 cats that came from an owner that was simply overwhelmed with the pets. Animal Protection Police was called to remove the cats from the home, Currier said.
“They are beautiful, healthy cats who are thrilled to finally have a space of their own with a litter box, food, and a soft blanket. They’re shy and hesitant of new people, but with a little patience they’ll come around and make great pets,” she said.
The shelter was also recently approached by resident who is seeking to give away 30 rabbits in phases.
“Staff and volunteers have been caring for the rabbits who have arrived at the shelter, seeing to their daily needs, and introducing them to potential adopters. Some of the rabbits are lionheads, some have shorter fur, variety of fur colors and mostly rich soft browns,” Currier said.
Clear the Shelters is an annual pet adoption and donation campaign that was launched by NBCUniversal Local eight years ago. This year’s half-hour special features feel-good stories of animal rescues and adoptions. It’s hosted by “The Blacklist” actor Amir Arison.
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is about to become a paw-pular place for beagle devotees, with 16 pooches saved from a Virginia research facility last month set to go up for adoption later this week.
On Monday morning (Aug. 8), a number of the spirited, tail-wagging beagles made their first public appearance since arriving at their new, temporary home. Dogs with names like Rosebud, Mint, and Bergamot hopped around in the grass, gnawed on a toy, and sat in their water bowl outside of the facility.
“[They] are putting their paws on grass for the first time,” shelter director Reasa Currier said as several floppy-eared puppies pranced around her feet. “They were uncertain about the sun, uncertain about the outside. All of this is brand new.”
In recent weeks, local shelters stepped up to help the rescue effort and find the dogs forever homes. This includes the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church, the Fairfax-based Homeward Trails, and the county animal shelter on West Ox Road.
The first wave of 16 dogs arrived at the shelter Thursday (Aug. 4). They ranged in age from 3 months to 6 years old. The beagles are currently receiving medical attention, tons of love, and just being allowed to adjust to life “being a dog,” Currier says.
She noted that the plan is to spade and neuter them this week, so they can be put up for adoption likely later in the week.
The beagles are here! 🐶 We welcomed 16 beagles into our shelter a couple days ago, and we’re thrilled that they’re safe in our care. It was quite the journey, from transporting them back to the shelter, settling them in, and starting to get to know their sweet personalities. pic.twitter.com/SX8l3nelKy
— Fairfax Animals (@fairfaxanimals) August 8, 2022
The phones have been “ringing off the hook” with calls from prospective puppy parents nationwide, Currier says.
The county shelter has an open adoption process, meaning people can walk in, fill out paperwork, meet with a counselor, and walk out with a new furry family member within the hour.
That process will remain the same for the beagles and will operate on a first come, first adopt basis. All the dogs are expected to be adopted very quickly, so Currier suggests monitoring the website to stay up to date on their availability.
For those that might miss out on the initial round of adoptions, more beagles are expected to arrive at the shelter in the weeks ahead. Read More
For the first time, animals from a research facility will be up for adoption at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.
Roughly 4,000 beagles from a research facility will be transferred to the shelter. A spokesperson for the animal shelter says staff and volunteers are excited to welcome the animals to start the “next chapter of their lives.”
“Once we know them, we’ll be able to help match them with awesome new families who can show them what it means to be a loved pet in a real home,” the spokesperson told FFXnow in a statement.
The beagles were rescued from inhumane conditions inside a research and breeding facility in Cumberland earlier this month. Homeward Trails, a shelter based in Fairfax Station, is helping the Humane Society of the U.S. find permanent homes for them.
In May, federal officials seized 145 dogs and puppies that law enforcement officials said were in acute distress. The rescue comes after federal inspectors found dozens of violations of federal regulations at the facility over two years.
For example, a female beagle’s paw was trapped in shoddy flooring for so long that she became dehydrated, according to a report from the New York Times.
Even though the beagles are from a breeding and research facility, no special protocol will be followed. The Fairfax County shelter plans to follow its standard adoption protocol.
Organizers are encouraging residents to consider adoption and support the shelter by volunteering. A wishlist for foster homes and the shelter is also available online.
The shelter doesn’t have a firm timeline yet on what the beagles will arrive or how many, according to a shelter spokesperson.