A highly contagious, potentially fatal virus affecting dogs is spreading throughout the county, mainly in areas of Bridgeton and Millville, according to officials.
The virus, called canine parvovirus (commonly known as simply “parvo”), which does not affect humans, is spread from dog to dog through feces, or from soil where canine feces once was, and causes severe vomiting and dysentery.
If left untreated, the virus carries a mortality rate of more than 90 percent.
Officials from around the county have stated cases of parvo reported at the Cumberland County SPCA and various local veterinary offices have rapidly increased in the last several weeks.
“Just at the SPCA, there have been 10 cases brought to us in less than a month,” said Bev Greco, executive director at the Vineland shelter. “Normally, it would take us four to five years to reach that number.
“I’ve been talking with animal control officers and veterinarians, and everyone is seeing it — it is definitely an outbreak that is going on.”
According to Dr. Jennifer Brownhill, a veterinarian at the Animal Hospital of Millville, there have been eight cases of parvo brought in to her office, from both Millville and Bridgeton, in the past three days.
Normally, the animal hospital sees an average of less than one case per month.
All eight of the afflicted canines have been successfully treated, according to Brownhill. Some have already been discharged from the animal hospital.
Millville Animal Control Officer Anthony Cils has also seen an increase in parvo cases.
“It seemed to have started last week, when someone brought in their pit bull puppy, crying and saying their dog was dying,” said Cils. “The pup was thin, vomiting and had blood in its stool.
“The dog was brought to a animal hospital, but it didn’t make it through the night.”
Cils stated that the puppy had come from the 500 block of Dock Street.
In addition, both the county SPCA and Cils are currently investigating a potential cruelty case involving parvo in which a miniature pincher puppy was found dead inside a garbage bag at the Millville Industrial Park.
The dog later tested positive for the virus.
Laying just next to the deceased puppy was a second miniature pincher pup, also suffering from parvo, seemingly left to die.
According to Greco, two men found the puppy and brought it to the SPCA wrapped in a towel.
The puppy died during the 15-minute drive to the nearest animal hospital.
Both dogs were between 3 and 4 months old, said Greco.
“It’s mainly prevalent among puppies between 6 weeks and 6 months old,” said Dr. Brownhill. “At that age, their natural immunities aren’t in place, and also most older dogs have already received their vaccinations.”
The virus is entirely preventable through proper, regular vaccinations. It is recommended puppies receive the shots beginning at 6 weeks of age, continuing with regular shots until 16 weeks.
According to Brownhill, of the eight dogs treated at the Millville animal hospital for parvo, none had any history of vaccinations at all.
“If you have a lot of dogs in one area that haven’t received any vaccinations for this, then it can spread very quickly in that area,” said Brownhill. “You step in it outside, and then you can bring it back in your house, and your dog can catch it that way, and it keeps spreading.
“Vaccination is the key to prevent this.”
Early symptoms of parvo include lethargic behavior and loss of appetite, followed by vomiting, fever and bloody diarrhea. These symptoms can in turn lead to dehydration and anemia. Dogs suffering from parvo have a distinctive odor.
Rotweilers and pit bulls are particularly susceptible to parvo.
According Brownhill, treatment typically involves placing the dog on a support system and replenishing fluids.
However, according to Greco, treatment can be expensive, ranging from $500 to $1,500.
Depending on how early the virus is identified, recovery rate is approximately 80 percent.
VINELAND — Smokey, the 5-month-old kitten rescued from a crack between a concrete step and a Pike Avenue home by Millville firefighters on July 6, has a new home.
Although the offspring of a feral mother and never really previously around humans, the kitten quickly got used to being handled, according to Bev Greco, director of the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Smokey was taken to veterinarian Dr. Kevin Ludwig, checked out and declared to be OK — in spite of the fact he may have been trapped in a two-inch crack, on his back, possibly overnight July 5 into July 6.
Smokey went from being traumatized, crying, shaking and dehydrated to being ready for adoption about a week later. He was featured on the SPCA’s weekly page in The News and had no trouble finding a home.
Smokey was a celebrity and he had a “back story” that generated interest. Not all kittens are that lucky and nobody knows that better than Greco.
“We see over 3,000 cats a year and a large number are feral. Their chances of adoption are slim to none,” she said.
“Smokey was lucky. It was a disgustingly hot day and I thought there was no way firefighters would be available for a cat rescue. They not only came, they got him out by wedging the step using air.”
Greco said it amounted to a good training drill for the fire department.
Neighbors said the kitten’s mother was living under a nearby porch and there were two siblings They were scared off by all the excitement.
Although Smokey is no doubt living a life of ease now, the SPCA is full of kittens who may not get that chance. And then there are the older cats. Children want a kitten, and sometimes so do adults. The adult cats stay there until their cages are needed for new occupants and there seems no chance that they will be adopted. You know what happens next.
Greco said there is one very easy answer to the thousands of unwanted and homeless cats (and dogs, too).
“What frustrates me most is that there is a simple answer — spay and neuter,” she said. “There are very few problems in life so easily solved. The animals we offer are spayed and neutered and have all their shots. Yes, we charge a small sum for them but it is much less than if you took your animal to the vets for its shots. The adoption fee is half that. There is no such thing as a free animal. There are going to be costs.”
Greco said that the advantages of older animals also are often overlooked.
“Often, a cat will become more affectionate as they get older. They make great companions for older adults. That’s why we ran our special, $7 to adopt a cat over seven years old.
“There have been special sales for black or partly black cats. We do what we can to hep these animals find homes.”
So if you saw Smokey’s picture and were disappointed you didn’t get to adopt him, take another look at the SPCA page. They have many more pets available for adoption. They may not all be celebrities, but they all have love to give in return for a home.
VINELAND — Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officials stated on Wednesday they cannot prosecute a case involving two dead roosters found in a bag over the weekend.
The roosters were apparently sacrificed in a religious ritual by practitioners of Santeria, a religion of West African and Caribbean origin, with Roman Catholic influences, according to Cumberland County SPCA Executive Director Bev Greco.
They were discovered in Willow Oak Natural Area, on East Landis Avenue, along with a collection of black candles and a plastic cup labeled “dirt from the cemetery” written in Spanish.
“Given the things that we’ve found, it appears to be a Santeria religious rite, which is a very complicated religion with many facets to it,” said Greco.
“Also, according to a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court case, you cannot prosecute for animal sacrifice unless they were killed inhumanely.”
According to Greco, the roosters’ throats were cut at the carotid artery and left to bleed out.
SPCA officials stated animals typically die very quickly when killed this way.
“Getting into what counts as legally humane can get tricky, but in this case, this meets the court’s criteria of not being inhumane,” said Greco. “Really, there’s no place we can go with this, not too many places the investigation can go.”
Greco also stated the SPCA receives “a few” similar cases of rooster sacrifice each year in Cumberland County.
According to police, a 54-year-old Vineland man stumbled upon the bag containing the roosters on Friday while walking his dog along a nature trail.
However, he did not inspect the bag until he saw it for a second time on Sunday.
Police officers who responded to the area later found another bag nearby. It contained black candles, a pair of wool gloves and a plastic butter dish apparently containing dirt from a cemetery.
Police stated there was no evidence that the ritual had been performed at the park.
“It’s something that’s more prevalent in some Spanish populations,” said Greco.
Followers of the religion can be found in the United States, Canada, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, parts of South America as well as western Europe.
“What’s typically done in these rituals, is that the rooster is eaten, unless it’s a sickness or death rite,” added Greco.
“Seeing as there was something labeled ‘cemetery dirt’ in the bag, and obviously the birds being in tact, we think it was some kind of death rite.”
A South East Avenue resident contacted police around 8 a.m. Sunday to report he found an injured dog on his home’s porch. A city animal control officer took the dog, which had “large, bloody scabs” on its body, to a Pittsgrove Township veterinarian for treatment, according to Vineland Police Ptl. Charles Garrison’s report.