Shelter dog reportedly tests positive for MRSA

HSGM says it is investigating

MIAMI – Several dogs have been quarantined at the Humane Society of Greater Miami, prompting questions about a highly contagious infection that could pose a threat to both pets and the people who handle them.

Local 10 visited the shelter after we received a tip that there had been an outbreak of several viruses.

When we first arrived, the shelter's executive director and chief veterinarian were there to greet us.

"We have an upper respiratory and Dr. Swan, our medical director will be able to explain it a little bit better," said Executive Dir. Donna Tallon.

"It's routine respiratory disease that we see," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Maureen Swan, adding that it was not the highly contagious MRSA virus.

Tallon and Swan went on to give us a tour of the expanding shelter and even allowed us into their intake quarantine building where they said five dogs were sick and isolated, recovering from upper respiratory infections. They added the animals were simply suffering colds.

Later in the day, Local 10 received a medical record on a dog named Red and we returned to the shelter.

"You told me there were not any cases of Pasturella or MRSA," Local 10's Todd Tongen said to Dr. Swan.

"There is not," Swan responded.

"That is your name right there, Dr. Swan," Tongen said, showing the doctor a copy of the report obtained by Local 10. "Clearly a dog named Red came back positive for MRSA and Pasturella. The date is two days ago."

At that point Dr. Swan suggested they go talk "off camera."

MRSA and Pasturella infections are highly contagious and resistant to many antibiotics. They can also spread between humans and pets and can be deadly.

Its unclear if the quarantined dogs have any of those infections, but the director admitted it was serious enough to send cultures to the University of Florida's medical laboratory.

"We have several strains right now, so we are trying to find out what are we really working with," Tallon said.

Meanwhile, the shelter remains open. Both the director and veterinarian say all the sick dogs are being kept in a building that's totally isolated from the rest of the animals or people visiting the shelter.