Veterinary Public Health

Pet Health Calendar
Contact Information
Veterinary Public Health Program
313 N Figueroa St. Rm 1127
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel (213) 288-7060
Fax (213) 481-2375
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Pet Rescue and Disease Prevention

Animal rescue groups in Los Angeles (LA) County do a tremendous amount to save the lives of dogs, cats, and other animals. In response to Hurricane Harvey, animal rescue groups based in LA County have saved  hundreds of animals. They have relocated pets to communities all across the country, including many here in Southern California.

When bringing rescued pets into LA County, it is possible to unintentionally bring in diseases as well.  Diseases have been imported in animals into LA County from other states and other countries in the past.

 Examples of animal diseases imported into LA County:

dog with face between fence slats
  • 2004 - A street dog in Thailand was rescued and flown into LA County. It was ill on arrival, and was eventually euthanized in Santa Barbara County. The dog was diagnosed with rabies after its death. Twelve people had handled the dog directly and were potentially exposed to rabies.
  • 2005- Numerous dogs rescued from Louisiana because of Hurricane Katrina were infected with heartworm. It is suspected that the surge in importation of heartworm-infected dogs to LA County increased the risk of heartworm transmission locally, because heartworm-infected dogs that do not get treated become reservoirs for the parasite.
  • 2017- Dogs rescued from Asia were sick with Canine Influenza H3N2, a new and highly contagious viral infection in dogs and cats. An outbreak occurred, causing 35 dogs to become ill, including 2 that died. The outbreak was successfully stopped by quarantining all sick and exposed dogs (52 total) at their homes.

Steps to Prevent Disease Importation and Spread

In order to prevent the spread of disease and keep our communities safe, there are steps both rescue groups and adopters can follow to reduce the risk of spread of disease.  It is important to remember that while rescuing animals, it is the rescuer's responsibility to keep the local pet community safe from diseases as well.

Steps for Animal Rescue Groups

  • Work closely with a veterinarian. Have the veterinarian examine all rescued animals.
  • Include testing and treatment of animals in your budget.
  • Quarantine rescued animals. This means keeping them separate from local animals, and out of public areas. Quarantine healthy pets for at least 14 days, and sick pets for at least 30 days, and be prepared for longer quarantines if an outbreak occurs.
  • Learn about the diseases that are prevalent in the region from which the animals are being rescued. Ask a veterinarian from that area. Have a protocol in place to assure that any needed vaccinations and tests are performed. For example:
    • All pets are vaccinated for rabies, or have documentation of earlier vaccination.
    • Animals that have been rescued from Texas following Hurricane Harvey should be examined by a veterinarian, screened for heartworm and treated, if necessary.
    • Dogs being rescued from Asia should be vaccinated canine influenza H3N2. They should receive the vaccination twice (2-3 weeks apart) before being imported.

 Steps for Adopters of Rescued Animals

  • Obtain copies of all veterinary records for the pet from the Rescue Group.
  • Take your new pet to a veterinarian for examination. Ask your veterinarian what you need to do to keep your new pet healthy, as well as any steps you need to take to keep your other pets healthy. For example, your veterinarian may potentially recommend vaccinations for the new pet and pets you already have.
  • Keep your new pet away from other pets until you are sure it is healthy, or at least 14 days. For example, do not take it to dog parks, or boarding or grooming facilities until it has stayed healthy for two weeks.

If you have any questions about brining rescued pets into LA County, ask to speak to the LA County Veterinarian On Call Monday through Friday, between 8 am and 5 pm at 213-989-7060.

Last Updated: September 28, 2017

Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.
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