Help Woof! battle the Canine Flu

Owing to an ongoing, wildfire epidemic of the dread canine influenza virus presently raging out of control throughout our Orlando, Florida, College Park community, our 9-year-old, award-winning, independent dog boarding, grooming and daycare facility, Woof! Orlando,  abruptly shut its doors on Thursday August 3rd 2017. Whether our business, which now is sealed off and quarantined into the foreseeable future, can survive this unexpected calamity and continue to serve the hundreds upon hundreds of clients that daily rely upon our services for their pets, strongly depends on whether we can raise enough money to weather the storm.

Since the beginning of June the Canine Influenza has been a threat to the dogs of  Central Florida. This illness is something that no animal care facility can 100% guarantee will not enter their place of business, regardless of the measures that are put into place. When the news broke of Influenza starting to spread in Central Florida we immediately implemented a vaccine (H3N2) requirement. However, the vaccine does not prevent the illness from spreading, it just lessens the symptoms and length of sickness. Our local animal shelter was shut down and was able to bounce back with new protocols in place.  A local veterinary hospital has also shut down due to this crippling virus and is slowly opening back up.  We have put forth tremendous efforts to protect our facility from this super germ creeping In, but our efforts failed.  Over the weekend of July 30th we began noticing that a few dogs began coughing in our boarding kennel, and on Monday the 31st we not only started telling all our clients that the facility may have a contractible illness in it, but also began receiving calls from clients who reported coughing symptoms whose dogs boarded with us the week prior. From what we can gather after making hundreds of phone calls to those clients who used our services from July 21st forward, we haven’t had a dog who used our services prior to July 26th to report any symptoms. On Monday the 31st we still did not know that what we were dealing with was the flu, some clients reported that their dog had been diagnosed with kennel cough, so we proceeded with that in mind, again, telling everyone that we believed we were currently battling kennel cough in our facility and that all dogs who used our services may be at risk of contracting the illness. Tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) is a well known and quite common illness to pet care facility owners, vets and even dog owners. Kennel cough is similar to a human cold and is an illness all pet care facilities have a good grasp on recognizing and treating, this flu virus had presented itself as such, but boy were we wrong...

On the morning of Thursday August 3rd at approximately 9:30am we received a call from a local vet who had swabbed a dog that had been at our facility boarding and had symptoms that mocked kennel cough (coughing), but was also showing clinical symptoms of the flu (fever, lethargy, loss of appetite).  The swab came back positive for Canine Influenza, our worst nightmare! We immediately locked our doors, put a sign on our door explaining the situation and shut down all operations. We began calling all clients with dogs in our care and who were under our care, and the process of tracing our steps backwards in effort to figure out when the Influenza virus entered the facility, to check on the health of  the dogs that we provided services for and to educate clients about not only the flu as it pertains to our situation but to their pets health as well. In a moment’s notice our business, our dream, our livelihood, our community all went into crisis mode. With the help of local vets, the University of Florida Veterinary specialists and all our amazing clients we’ve been working non- stop to educate all those involved and not directly involved in this outbreak. As a proud Orlando resident, and more specifically a College Park community member, it’s first and foremost our duty to not only get the word out as fast as possible about how we are taking steps and measures to get this under control, but what others can do to protect their pets health. This isn’t only a Woof! Orlando problem, it’s a “we” issue. We as a city need to all educate each other about what the H3N2 dog Influenza is, but also what we all can do to try and get it under control, because at the end of the day what’s most crucial is the health of all our dogs.

During all of this our own 14 year old dog contracted the virus. She was a senior dog who had been in the late stages of cancer, and unfortunately her body could not fight the virus, we lost her to the sickness two days after we got our first report of the canine influenza. We also learned our business insurance does not cover interruption of business. The insurance company does not consider canine influenza a natural disaster. We have decided the most responsible and ethical thing to do was to close down and treat our entire facility. We feel this is what absolutely has to be done to ensure the dogs entering our facility in the future won’t contract the virus. We have been in close contact with other local dog facilities educating them and trying to offer help and advice so they can prevent this from happening in their own facility. The reality is that a seven day shut down to clean, treat and implement more Flu specific policies and procedures has become crippling to us and our employees. We will forever be grateful and indebted to our community for pulling together to help us overcome this unexpected obstacle which threatens our dream in the weeks and months to come.

 This goal amount is the minimum we have predicted we will need to meet overhead while make every attempt to sustain as a business. We are putting one foot in front of the other each day, choking back the tears and hoping for the best. We will put all funds towards re-opening in one week and making our facility an even safer place then it was before (which was pretty darn safe). We thank you in advance for any help you can give. We have never entertained the idea of asking our customers, neighbors and friends for help. In the ten plus years that we have been serving the dogs of College Park and Central Florida neighborhoods, we have always felt it was our duty, as a community supporter and small business owner to serve our loyal customers. Whether it being fundraising for local non-profit fundraisers, school events, auctions, supporting local artists, the local merchant association and College Park’s Mainstreet program. Whatever was asked of us we have always strongly felt it was our responsibility as an anchor for small business in the community to partner whenever we possibly could. Never in our wildest dreams could we have foreseen that we would find ourselves in such a back-against-the-wall position, one that now obliges us to depend upon the generosity and goodwill of others for the very survival of our livelihood, but unfortunately that is the hard-to-swallow reality.


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Michelle Cipriano 
Orlando, FL
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