Illness temporarily shuts down local dog park

Rocklin Residents Unite for Fido identify kennel cough outbreak
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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By Jon Brines Placer Herald Correspondent Rocklin’s only dog park has reopened after an outbreak of an infectious illness forced the closure of the park for two days. Vicki Curtis, president of Rocklin Residents Unit for Fido (RRUFF), the community group that helped establish the dog park, suggested the closure after receiving an email and a call from two dog owners whose canines had developed kennel cough. “One took his dog to the vet and was diagnosed and he was the one who let us know,” Curtis said. “He had been at the park.” Kennel cough, which has been known to be both bacterial and viral in nature, can progress into pneumonia. Dogs with kennel cough will sneeze and cough excessively. The infectious disease can be prevented with a Bordetella shot every six months. Rocklin resident Karl Kloetzer has been getting his Australian Sheepdog, Hattie, vaccinated every six months for the past two years. His dog became very ill with kennel cough after spending time at a Roseville dog park. “They throw up, won’t sleep and they cough. It’s uncomfortable, Kloetzer said. “It’s not life threatening.” For RRUFF members, the concern was the illness would spread to other dogs through contact with contaminated surfaces or direct contact with other dogs at the park. After Curtis informed the city of Rocklin’s Recreation Dept, the park was padlocked for two days with a sign the read “closed for maintenance.” It reopened Feb. 17. Originally it was scheduled to be closed for 10 days, but the city and RRUFF opted to reopen it after a good cleaning. “Based on the information that we were given, we thought that was adequate time to resolve the issue,” Curtis said. RRUFF volunteers rubbed bleach on all the fences, concrete pads, chairs, hoses and faucets at the park. “The most likely culprit is the sharing of tennis balls,” Curtis said. “Going forward, if we see any tennis balls (left at the park), we’re going to throw them away. We have to do that.” She also asked that dog owners not leave their dog’s toys at the park. Rocklin resident Paul Segel was surprised to find the park closed when he arrived with his German Shorthair Pointer, Lucy. “I think they are a little over-protective,” Segel said. “The kennel cough thing is something you kind of expect when you are a pet owner. Our other dog has had it, but it’s not such a big deal.” RRUFF member Cindy Martineau was shocked by the decision to close the park, but said Curtis did the right thing. “They should (close it),” Martineau said. “Someone took a dog in there that had it and it didn’t have shots. You should have the Bordetella shot every six months.” Even though the park has only been open for two months, Curtis doesn’t see the closure as a setback. “I would rather overreact and prevent something from being a problem than ignore it,” Curtis said. Martineau wants to go further with a posted sign warning dog owners about kennel cough. “I would like to see a sign out there that said you are not allowed in here unless your dog has a Bordetella shot,” Martineau said. For Gordon Holt, director of Parks and Recreation, the closure is new territory for Rocklin’s only dog park. The city will need to develop a policy on how to respond in the future. “I have had several people stating that we need to have paid city staff working inside the dog park and checking immunization records and licenses,” he said. “My response is that we would then need to charge an admission fee to cover the costs.” While the idea would be unprecedented in regional dog parks, Holt said an attendant may not work. Rather, he’s looking to RRUFF to educate the public. “We need to monitor this,” Holt said. Holt is concerned that warmer temperatures may present the next challenge for the dog wash areas as well as how to deal with potentially contaminated standing water. “It was good we had a dust up early on because now our dog park users are going to be even better dog owners and take better care of their pets and help educate other people,” Curtis said.