Amidst a concerning outbreak of Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD) that's gripping the nation, the beloved Boston Tea Party Boston Terrier Pet Walk in St. Petersburg, Florida, has taken a compassionate yet necessary detour. In a time when community health takes precedence, the event’s organizers have shown remarkable leadership by postponing the much-anticipated gathering. Just Add Rover had the opportunity to speak with the event’s organizer, Jim Nixon, delving into the decision-making process, community engagement strategies during the hiatus, and the ongoing support for the Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida, Inc. This interview sheds light on the careful considerations taken when public health concerns loom over public events.
Community Voice Matters: The decision to postpone was supported by an overwhelming majority vote from the pet walk group, reflecting a community that values safety and well-being above all.
Engagement Over Isolation: Transitioning from planning to information mode, the organizers are keeping the community engaged through regular updates, prioritizing transparency and public health education.
Supporting the Supporters: Recognizing the potential financial strain on pet-centered businesses and agencies, the organizers advocate for continued patronage of local businesses and active contributions to the Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida.
Q: Could you walk us through the decision-making process that led to postponing the event and what specific factors you are considering when determining a new date?
A: In light of the recent Canine Infectious Respiratory disease (CIRD) outbreak diagnosed across the country, The Boston Terrier Tea Party and Boston Terrier Pet Walk has been postponed, with a potential rescheduling in the spring. Over the last few weeks, we have seen an increase in diagnosed cases in Florida and nationwide.
We posted a poll within our group to see where the group's thoughts were, and overwhelmingly, the group voted to postpone. 83% voted to postpone until spring, 14% voted to host as scheduled, and 2% to host as scheduled with Covid-like precautions (6ft apart).
We contacted local veterinarian resources in our area for the potential impacts, advice on how to hold the event safely, and their thoughts on hosting the event as planned. Each veterinarian and two rescue services stated they would err on caution and not host the event during this outbreak.
Over the next few weeks, we will continue to monitor the outbreak's status through the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and participate in a national Facebook Group on Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease tracking. We have seen post-reporting outbreaks in Orlando and Tampa.
There are a lot of logistics to hosting a gathering event in downtown St. Pete. We hope to host the event before we get into spring's heat. Our Boston Terrier pups do not do well in high heat, nor do some walkers 😊.
We want to maintain the Pet Walk aspect of our event. The puppy parade is enjoyable for visitors and businesses along Beach Drive downtown. In 2020, We implemented COVID restrictions and held the walk on the St Pete Pier. We are considering all options. We hope to have a Spring date and details soon, but with this outbreak, details must remain fluid.
Q: In what ways are you planning to keep the participants and community engaged and informed about future updates?
A: We have switched from planning mode to information mode. Our priority is to keep our pups safe. As we monitor the outbreak's status, we will share information with our group directly on the Facebook group page and in our Facebook live chat.
In spring, we are working with the city official and our supporting partners on available dates. The City of St Petersburg hosts the Firestone Grand Prix every year in March. The track includes Pioneer Park, which makes our gathering location unavailable. So we are considering all options and will share any details directly to our Boston Terrier Tea Party – St. Petersburg Facebook group.
Q: We'd love to hear more about the Facebook fundraiser for Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida, Inc. (BTRFL). How can people contribute, and what impact do you hope it will have during this hiatus?
A: We have worked with Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida for all five previous years. Many of our participants in the annual walk are adoptees and foster fur parents. It was only natural to be our benefitting rescue. They have been at each walk and shared their mission throughout Florida and partnering agencies. We created a Facebook fundraiser on our group page to donate to Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida.
During this outbreak, most pet-centered businesses and agencies will feel a negative impact from a drop in customers to increased medical costs. We have not heard of any outbreaks within our rescues, but with the seriousness of this disease, it could become very costly.
Commonly, the precaution to this outbreak is avoiding contact with other dogs. Drop in business can impact several local businesses that rely on dog gatherings. Mutts and Martini in St. Petersburg host our monthly Boston Terrier meet-ups, and while we may not be comfortable bringing our pups right now, we are asking people to attend still. Like during the COVID outbreak, small businesses need our continued support.
Our participating Water Station sponsor Camp Bow Wow Clearwater-Carillon could be negatively impacted if the outbreak continues. So, we want to recognize those businesses that support us each year.
Q: What advice would you offer to others faced with the possibility of postponing an event due to health concerns?
A: It would be best to consider the broad-ranging impacts of such an outbreak. Canine Infectious Respiratory disease (CIRD) is already impacting our residents and their pets. But this outbreak goes far beyond the financial burden, for almost all fur parents will tell you our pups are family. Fear and worry have already spread among our pet community. No one wants to put their pups at risk. But the impact is wide-ranging to many who work in the pet-friendly field or have pets that go to daycare, groomers, and dog parks.
The best advice is to follow the advice of the professionals, stay informed, and always take precautions.
No specific preventative measures or treatments are known now, and the likely timeline of development/understanding of these is long, so the measures below are the best choice.
Avoid contact with other dogs.
Ensure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by your veterinarian.
Contact your veterinarian if your dog has clinical signs.
American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF)
New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Please keep your pups safe and help prevent this outbreak's spread. It's all our responsibility.
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