VIRGINIA BEACH -- Employees at the Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center wore scrubs, booties, and caps Wednesday as they sterilized 2 adoption rooms, working around the cats that were in the rooms.
In 9 days, 21 cats were euthanized because of Feline Calicivirus.
Calicivirus, known as Calici, is a highly contagious virus that causes upper respiratory and oral disease in cats. The virus is virulent and has a tendency to mutate, leaving preventative vaccinations for the virus often unsuccessful.
Since Calici is a virus, there is no specific treatment, only supportive care.
Due to the contagious nature of the virus between cats, the shelter said it had to take precautions to protect the cats and prevent exposure to animals.
The 2 cat adoption rooms getting the heavy sanitizing are closed to the public while cats are being monitored by veterinary staff and receiving immune stimulants, pheromone therapy to calm them, and supportive care.
The symptoms of the virus can be significant and painful particularly in the midst of an aggressive virus strain.
The shelter currently vaccinates cats for the virus and shelter’s veterinary staff stress that viruses, such as Calici, are not born in the shelter but are brought in and must be managed once they are introduced.
Dogs and humans are not affected by the virus.
"There's a lot of inherent risk, you know, when you run a facility where you house that many number of cats, and dogs, and so forth," said City Auditor Lyndon Remias.
Remias and his office are in the planning phase of an audit of the center. He told 13News Now the audit is not a result of the current situation involving the outbreak of Calicivirus. Remias explained it is part of the City of Virginia Beach's annual audit plan. The review of the Animal Care and Adoption Center is being done at the request of Chief of Police James Cervera under whose department Animal Control falls.
"Right now, we're gathering information from various stakeholders, you know, obviously, the employees, the many volunteers, veterinarians within the area to get their input on some of their issues, some of their concerns," Remias said.
He added some volunteers already expressed concerns about issues related to cleanliness, spread of virus, and euthanizing of cats.
Although the audit is not a result of the situation involving Calici, some of those volunteers point to it as proof of their worries.
"If a root cause can be attributed back to the thoroughness or lack thereof the cleaning of the facilities, you know, then that would be something we would be concerned about, something we are definitely going to follow up on in regards to our audit," stated Remias.
The City Auditor said the scope of the audit still has to be determined, but it will include looking at policies and procedures that govern the shelter, and training that employees receive to ensure they are thoroughly cleaning all areas that house animals, a key component in ensuring disease does not spread.
Remias scheduled 2 meetings with volunteers, allowing them to give their input and to speak candidly about their concerns. No paid shelter staff members will be at the meetings, which are set for September 5 from 6:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m. and September 10 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The meetings will take place in the Learning Center of the Animal Care and Adoption Center.