Pretoria - Dogs are dying at an alarming rate due to the parvovirus outbreak at the SAPS police hub for dog training and breeding, based in Roodeplaat north of the city.
The K9 Academy is responsible for training all the police dogs in the country and is continually visited by numerous dog handlers, sparking fears that the virus could spread.
A total of 71 dogs have died since the outbreak was first reported to the National SPCA last month.
While it has been contained to the breeding section, an investigation has been launched into the outbreak.
SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said several puppies had to be put down, but did not give the number. He said more than 160 puppies were saved and being monitored closely.
“There is an investigation under way to establish if there was negligence on the part of any member tasked with the safekeeping of the facility and the animals,” he said.
The SPCA said it was alerted to the outbreak on September 7.
Established dog handler Stephen van Wyk said the police were underplaying the intensity of the incident.
He said the crisis needed urgent intervention as the long-term issues involved fewer police dogs fighting crime. “There are already hundreds of dog handlers across the country who do not have dogs.
“The financial losses, if you take into account specialist training the dogs would have received, is going to cost the police millions of rand.”
He said even if some of the affected puppies survived, it was unlikely they would be operational.
The chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on police, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said they were now aware of the outbreak at the K9 Academy in Pretoria, but they would investigate the incidents.
Parvovirus is a highly infectious virus that attacks the gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular systems of dogs.
Pets are likely to become infected by ingesting the virus which is then carried to the intestine where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation.
The disease affects unvaccinated or poorly vaccinated dogs and causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea. Left untreated, dogs will die a painful death. Young dogs are particularly susceptible and a single vaccination is not enough. Many people believe that a dog that has had one puppy vaccination will be immune to parvovirus - this is incorrect.
Puppies need at least two and sometimes three vaccinations to be protected. Young adult dogs that were not properly vaccinated as puppies will contract the disease as well. Adult dogs that have not been vaccinated for a number of years can also become ill.
Even dogs that never leave the premises can pick up the virus as it spreads extremely easily and lives in the environment for many years.
Treatment involves being in an isolation unit with intensive nursing, intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Costs can run into thousands of rand.
Proper vaccination is imperative and will prevent the disease.