Fairfax county shelter euthanizes all cats after virus spreads

(AP, ABC7) - The Fairfax County Animal Shelter says it has euthanized all cats at the facility after a deadly virus spread.

Police said the virus was carried by cats brought to the shelter from a hoarding incident in mid-June. Fairfax County police and animal control have been to the Springfield townhome five times in the past two weeks, and there are still cats and dogs at the woman’s house.

The owner, identified as 46-year-old Janet Jacobs, has been charged in connection with animal hoarding. Seventy-five cats have been removed from the house.

“This lady apparently has a very compassionate heart for the animals, trying to find them all homes,” said neighbor Lorraine Rihaly.

“She loves animals, ever since I've been here she takes them in,” said Marilyn Wilson, another neighbor.

Leigh Lolos says Jacobs wanted her to adopt a kitten. She's glad she didn't, because it could have brought in the Calici virus and killed her two cats.

Some 80 cats were euthanized after cats infected with a highly contagious, virulent strain of Calicivirus were brought to the shelter in mid-June. The virus spread quickly, even though all sick and exposed cats were euthanized in an effort to stop the spread.

The Fairfax County animal shelter was overwhelmed with the surge in cats after the confiscation at Jacobs’ home. The cats were quarantined in one room, but the air-borne virus made its way to other cats through the ventilation system.

While a new shelter is under construction, the increase in hoarding cases may provoke change.

‘We may need to go to a regional approach to try to handle these because Fairfax county is not the only shelter that has experienced these hoarding cases,” said Officer Bud Walker of the Fairfax county police.

Volunteers are scrubbing the shelter to eliminiate traces of the virus from all rooms used by house cats. The shelter has temporarily suspended cat adoptions.

“The only answer is to start fresh, and unfortunately that involves the euthanasia of the cats,” said Mary Ann Jennings, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax police.

The virus causes upper respiratory distress. Humans and dogs are not affected, although dogs can carry the virus on their coats and infect cats in the same household.