County Animal Shelter Identifies Shelter Bacteria Outbreak

Press Release


For immediate release:
January 11, 2024


For more information, contact:
Linda Lowe
Public Information Officer
Department of the Environment; (301) 836-2115 (cell)


County Animal Shelter Identifies Shelter Bacteria Outbreak 

Facility remains closed to the public while treatment and deep cleaning protocols continue 


Largo, MD – The Prince George’s County Animals Services Facility and Adoption Center (ASFAC) has confirmed a bacterial respiratory infection named Streptococcus Zooepidemicus, also referred to as Strep Zoo (pronounced “Zo”), as the virus causing the temporary closing of the shelter last week. The infection is highly contagious and mostly fatal in dogs when not caught early and has not been known to impact cats or other animals within the facility. The infection is causing outbreaks nationwide and is most dangerous in animal shelters where animals are held in close confinement and have high levels of stress. 

Strep Zoo is a bacterium normally found in horses, cattle, and pigs that rarely causes disease. When this bacterium infects immunocompromised dogs, it may cause severe pneumonia. There is no vaccine for Strep Zoo and few warning signs. 

The outbreak forced the facility to close its doors for services last week when signs of severe illness were first exhibited in dogs within the shelter. Under the direction of its facility veterinarians, Dr. Yusef Abdullah and Dr. Sabrina Owens, and Associate Director David Fisher, the staff began immediate isolation, testing, and treatment of animals showing signs of illness. It also engaged in deep cleaning protocols and policies for all staff. 

Operations continue to be driven by veterinary medical professionals and best practices in shelter medicine. ASFAC continues to identify any animals showing signs of illness to provide immediate treatment protocols. The facility remains closed to the public until further notice to contain the outbreak. The facility’s reopening to the public will be based ten days from the last reported new symptomatic animal.

“Our staff was fortunate to catch this illness early, which allowed us to put immediate actions in place to stop the spread and help save lives in our shelter dog population,” says David Fisher, Associate Director of the Department of Animal Services.

Symptoms of Strep Zoo can be attributed to other illnesses, so ASFAC recommends that any time a pet shows signs of any illness, it is important to seek veterinary care. Symptoms can include:

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy (low energy)
  • Fever
  • Coughing blood
  • Vomiting

Because this illness can progress quickly, pet owners should seek immediate care if they see any signs. However, this is an opportunistic disease and is normally only seen in shelter environments where dogs are stressed and their immune systems are lowered. If your dog is up to date with all its shots, including the recently added Canine Influenza shot, is healthy, and regularly sees a veterinarian for check-ups, it is highly unlikely they will contract this disease.

Shelters nationwide are experiencing increased animal infection rates as intake has spiked since COVID. Many of the dogs at the shelter come in as strays with preexisting illnesses, malnourishment, cruelty experiences, or other maladies. While shelter overcrowding has become the norm nationwide, this can be changed with help from the community.  ASFAC encourages pet owners to spay/neuter their animals, be responsible pet owners, and consider fostering an animal in need.

For more information on Strep Zoo, review this fact sheet. For updates on when the facility will reopen, please visit or


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