Dallas Animal Shelter offers $150 to fosters in effort to stop canine flu outbreak

The city of Dallas says there’s an urgent need for families who can temporarily house dogs.

Dallas Animal Service is offering a $150 incentive for foster families this weekend who can open their homes to a dog for two weeks. The $150 Visa-style gift cards are given above and beyond other necessities needed to care for a large dog.

The agency said it needs to get 150 dogs out of its shelter as quickly as possible because it is seeing an increase in canine flu and respiratory infections.

While vets are actively treating the sick dogs, the city hopes to get as many as possible that are not showing symptoms out of the shelter to help stop the spread.

They are being funded by the nonprofit, Friends of Dallas Animal Services, and the goal is to save lives.

READ MORE: 241 dogs adopted from Dallas Animal Services after reporting being out of space

"Lifesaving is a community-wide effort, and DAS has never needed the community more desperately than we do now," DAS Director Melissa Webber. "Securing placement for 150 large dogs in three days is a big ask, but we are confident our community is up to the challenge."

Webber said the incentive is aimed at first-time dog owners or new foster families. The money is in addition to the supplies that DAS provides such as food, bowls, and a crate.

"Our team will provide you with the training and resources you need and help you pick the right dog for your home. We are committed to making it easy for you to help us maximize lifesaving this weekend," she said.

Webber said the goal is to create what is called a clean break, and stop the spread of upper respiratory infections, especially canine influenza.

"We will clean, disinfect. All new healthy dogs will come on this side," she explained of their plan.   

It's part of a plan developed with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine Experts.

"Canine influenza is treatable, rarely fatal, but highly contagious, but only contagious to dogs. Similar to if you send your child to daycare and the child gets the flu, and even though staff are doing a good job, once it's there, chances are all the kids will get the flu," she said.

Webber said if someone has a dog at home but wants to help out, they just need a plan to keep the dogs separated for two weeks. 

"It spreads through droplets, and surfaces," Webber said.

Webber said all dog owners should avoid taking their dogs to dog parks and pet stores until canine flu cases start to decrease. 

READ MORE: Animal rescue group works to save pets from Ukraine war zone, and reunite them with owners

"We saw their post about dogs needing a new home," Taylor Cryer said. "Came this morning, we couldn't wait."

Cryer is one of 150 people needed by Sunday to help clear the shelter of large dogs.

"The eyes, you could look into them and see such a sweet boy," Cryer said when picking out a dog.

To say thanks to fosters like Cryer, Dallas Animal Services will provide gift cards for $150 after dogs have been in a home for two weeks.

"I think it is a good incentive," Cryer said.

The idea of incentivizing fosters is one being tried in a few other cities right now.

"An emerging trend in animal welfare," Webber said. "I think in the next year or two, you will see it pop up more and more."

Wendy Reiner, executive director of Friends of DAS, said her board did not hesitate to act.

"We have wonderful, compassionate animal lovers, so we had the funds available, had a board vote immediately after getting the call from Melissa at DAS, and everyone said yes," Reiner said.

If all 150 dogs are fostered this weekend, there will be $22,500 paid out in gift cards.

The hope is some of the foster homes will also become forever homes.

"Love his personality, seems like he will be a good fit for our family," Cryer said of their new foster dog.

The foster dogs will also receive free veterinary care if needed.

Anyone interested in fostering should visit bedallas90.org/home/foster/.