ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A microscopic bacteria has infected the dog population at the St. Johns County Pet Center, forcing it to stop accepting canines.
The center has posted a cross-contamination sign at the entrance of the dog kennel letting everyone know to use proper hand-washing techniques before entering.
It's called microplasma bacteria, and according to the animal control division chief Paul Studivant, pet center workers first noticed something was wrong about a month ago.
"We were treating it as kennel cough very aggressively. When the antibiotics stopped working, we realized we were dealing with something a lot larger," said Studivant.
According to Studivant, the bacteria causes dogs to go from a cold to pneumonia in a matter of 24 hours. He believes it was brought in by a stray dog.
The only way to get rid of it is to scrub down every square inch of the center's 80 kennels.
Before workers can start the cleaning process, every dog has to go.
"What the county has decided to do is waive all adoption fees to get all the canines out of the center," said Studivant.
That's $45 per dog. New pet owner Pam Fitler said the illness wasn't going to stop her from taking home a pet.
"I've had dogs all my life and it's treatable and I think he'll do really well in a quiet, calm, warm environment," said Fitler.
The pet center is also providing every new pet owner with antibiotics to treat the infection.
There are about nine dogs left to be adopted. Studivant said as soon as the last pet leaves, workers will begin the cleaning process. The center is expected to resume operations by Nov 30.