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Scarborough pet store remains under quarantine after dog death

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Scarborough pet store remains under quarantine after dog death

SCARBOROUGH — A quarantine on animal sales at Little Paws pet shop on Payne Road continued this week while owner Barbara Shaw Cross obtains tests on 23 dogs at the store.

“We are trying to figure out what we need to do to get ourselves off quarantine,” said Cross, the store owner since last June.

Animal sales were halted (the store remains open for other business) Feb 1. by order of the Maine Animal Welfare Program, overseen by the state Department of Agriculture, after a purebred husky puppy sold to Julie Thomas of Madison, N.H., tested positive for parvovirus.

The husky, named Shelby, was about 10 weeks old when it died Feb. 2 at the Fryeburg Animal Hospital.

The quarantine on sales will be lifted after each dog in the store is confirmed not to have parvovirus. Dogs will also be tested and treated for giardia, an intestinal parasite that infected Shelby, before sales resume.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, parvovirus is an easily transmitted virus that attacks the canine intestinal tract and possibly the heart.

In its most severe form, parvovirus can kill a dog 48 to 72 hours after the first signs are exhibited. The virus is transmitted through dog feces and vomit, and can live in cages or on floors "for many months," according to the society.

Thomas, who has owned huskies for about 13 years, said she typically bought huskies from private breeders, and was not really looking to buy another dog when her family visited the Scarborough store.

But in part because she had just lost a 12-year-old husky, Thomas said she put down a $200 deposit on Shelby and paid almost $1,100 more before taking her home Jan. 23. Cross said Shelby was sold for $1,386, including tax. 

Shelby arrived in the store on Jan. 16, from Kansas breeders John and Linda Fromm. State law requires animals imported into Maine for resale to be quarantined for five days if age 6 months or under, and for 48 hours if older than 6 months.

It was the first time Cross bought a husky from the Fromms, and she admitted she ignored her usual procedures by acting on a reference from a breeder who sells her about 85 percent of her husky puppies.

Cross said she regretted not interviewing the Fromms to learn more about their practices and to obtain pictures of their breeding operation.

"I wish I had done business as normal," she said. The documentation shipped with Shelby showed two vaccinations against parvovirus, she added.

Thomas said Shelby at first appeared healthy.

"She looked good from the outside," Thomas said.

Six days later, Thomas said she spent the night on the floor next to her sick dog, who was lethargic, vomiting and had diarrhea. The next day, she took Shelby to Fryeburg Veterinary Hospital.

Thomas said doctors there did not suspect parvovirus because of the vaccination records.

According to the Humane Society, puppies can be protected from parvovirus in the first six weeks after birth by maternal immunity, and are most susceptible to infection between 6 and 24 weeks.

After the diagnosis, Thomas said she alerted Cross and the Animal Welfare program, directed by Liam Hughes.

Animal Welfare spokesman Jay Finegan said Thomas's complaint was one of "several complaints each year that involve a disease outbreak at a licensed facility or other populations of young dogs or cats."

Thomas said animal hospital staff tried to rehydrate and treat Shelby while Cross urged her to bring the dog back to the store. Thomas said she trusted the animal hospital staff, but Cross said she urges customers to bring dogs back because she trusts her own veterinarian and can assume the cost of care.

Cross and Thomas remain at odds about where Shelby contracted parvovirus.

“It didn't come from here, I believe that,” Thomas said.

Cross said the 23 dogs in the store and 13 sold since Shelby arrived show no symptoms of parvovirus.

Thomas said Shelby's care cost $915, and she eventually relinquished ownership back to Cross in order to get a refund. Cross is under no legal requirement to reimburse Thomas for the medical fees, Finegan said.

Shelby was the second dog sold at Little Paws to die in the last month. Cross said a dachshund bought by a Rockland customer should have been kept at the store longer and she asked the owner to return it, because it was possibly suffering from hypoglycemia. But it died before it made it back to the store.

Finegan said earlier this week his office knew of that death, but did not receive a complaint from the dog's owner.

Little Paws, and Pawsitively Pets before it, have been targets of protests by Maine Citizens Against Puppy Mills, a group that last summer asked Scarborough town councilors to enact an ordinance banning the sale of puppies raised by large-scale breeders.

By a 2-1 vote last July, discussion of the regulation was tabled by the council ordinance committee.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.