NOTE: This story has been updated with lab tests returning for some of the dogs. Read the new version here.
Leptospirosis can affect humans and animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In humans, it can cause a range of symptoms and lead to serious health problems.
The disease is usually spread through the urine of infected animals. The bacteria live in water and soil, making it easy to transmit via contaminated water, such as puddles. The park, at 400 N. Borough Road, near Annie Wright Schools, borders a gulch.
Metro Parks became aware of the problem after a sign was posted at the park. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department also received phone calls, spokeswoman Edie Jeffers said. The health department is assisting but not investigating the possible outbreak.
“While we investigate these reports, we recommend that pets stay out of Garfield Park at this time,” Metro Parks said in a statement. “The disease also can be spread to humans through contact with infected animals or contaminated water or soil, so we further recommend that adults and children avoid puddles and wash thoroughly after coming into contact with the soil.”
Owners of two of the dogs contacted The News Tribune.
Vicky and Rick Shanaman’s 7-year-old English sheepdog, Hudson, died from a suspected case of leptospirosis on Monday. The couple, who live on North C Street, walked Hudson daily at Garfield Park.
Hudson loved to drink from puddles, either from rain or the park’s irrigation system, Vicky said.
On Sept. 18, the couple saw Hudson drink from a puddle.
“My husband yelled and at him and he stopped and we continued with our walk,” Vicky said Wednesday evening. A few days later Hudson became lethargic.
After a trip to Fort Steilacoom Park on Saturday, Hudson was unable to climb into the couple’s car. They took him to Summit Veterinary in Tacoma. Soon, his kidneys were failing.
“Automatically, they suspected leptospirosis,” Vicky said.
By Monday, Hudson was gravelly ill. The couple had him euthanized.
Vicky posted a note about Hudson’s death on Facebook. That was seen by neighbor Annie Lockwood.
Her daughter Gaby’s dog, a mixed Chihuahua mix named Tigger, had died the same day. The suspect: leptospirosis.
The Lockwoods live a block from Garfield Park. Like Hudson, Tigger would drink from puddles.
The dog nicknamed “pocket rocket” became ill Tuesday.
“She went downhill, not wanting to go on walks,” Gaby, 15, said.
On Friday, Gaby took the dog that once belonged to her grandmother to BluePearl Venterinary. Like Hudson, Tigger’s kidneys soon failed. She was euthanized Monday.
When Gaby saw Vicky Shanaman’s post, “I realized it was probably lepto and it was going around.”
Gaby sprung into action. She called the Humane Society and Tacoma’s animal control.
She made fliers and went door to door.
“I terrified half the neighborhood,” she said.
Gaby also put up signs at the park. On one of them, someone wrote that their dog had died as well. It wasn’t the Shanamans, Vicky said.
“Really, every dog in Garfield Park drinks the water (from puddles). We were very worried,” Annie said.
Laboratory tests that would confirm leptospirosis in both dogs have not come back yet.
Tigger’s death has saddened the entire Lockwood family, human and canine.
“We’re OK, but our other dog cries all night,” Gaby said. “She misses Tigger.”
If you have any information regarding an ill or deceased dog, call Metro Parks at 253-305-1030.