The COVID-19 pandemic has brought outbreak management to the forefront of global awareness. The importance of principles such as early recognition and action, transparent public communication, and ongoing research exploration has never been more evident. Shelters congregate community animals of unknown health status into institutional housing and serve as broader community safety nets. Even animal shelters with optimal practices are likely to encounter occasional disease outbreaks in animals in shelter housing, foster homes, or in the community (particularly where humans are vulnerable due to poverty, natural disasters, or other factors).

In this session, we will explore the following real cases managed by the BC SPCA: an outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease in a supportive housing apartment building, acute feline gastroenteritis associated with fechavirus in a multi-facility shelter outbreak, and canine infectious respiratory disease (“kennel cough”) of unknown cause in a temporary facility housing dogs of fire evacuees. All of these outbreaks were successfully managed with a robust collaborative response involving members of the veterinary, shelter, animal protection, and communications teams in cooperation with external experts from government, academia, and industry. Rather than focusing on clinical details, we will focus on learnings from these outbreaks and what every member of the team can do to support effective outbreak response. This session is for anyone working in animal welfare or veterinary medicine.