Rumors about leptospirosis at Garfield Park denied by local officials


Dean of Upper School for Boys Jeremy Stubbs’s dog, Charlie (right), often plays at Garfield Park.

Maeve Hunt

Rumors have spread in Tacoma this week that three dogs have died of leptospirosis after visiting Garfield Park, a public park next to Annie Wright. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and Metro Parks, however, shared information about the cause of death that says otherwise. They both explained that none of the cases of leptospirosis were actually confirmed, and they found no signs of the disease after doing autopsies, which leaves a mystery as to how the dogs died.

Leptospirosis is a disease that can be found all around the world, and not only affects dogs but also many other animals as well. The disease is caused by a type of bacteria that can be found in both water and soil. Animals can contract the disease from drinking from puddles or sniffing infected animals’ urine.

The three dogs that died all were said to have drunk from the puddles only days before they started acting weak, showing signs of abnormal activity and beginning to have kidney failure. The dog owners believed that this was all caused by leptospirosis, and one even said it was confirmed by her vet, but Edie Jeffers, the Communications & Community Relations Manager for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, explained that no cases have been found.

“MetroParks is working with Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and has verified that lab testing thus far has shown no leptospirosis among these dogs,” said Jeffers. “Final results will not be available until next week. Leptospirosis is a not very common in animals, including dogs specifically, but if you are concerned about this and other animal illnesses, be sure your pets are fully vaccinated. If you have questions about this and other animal illnesses, please contact your veterinarian.”

Hunter George, the communication and public affairs officer for Metro Parks, said based on the recommendations from the health department, that they are lifting the advisory against pets going to Garfield Park because the test results from the dogs have been negative for leptospirosis so far. Only one dog’s test results have not yet come back.

On Wednesday Annie Wright notified families that students will not use Garfield Park during school hours. The school will continue the ban until their absolute safety can be confirmed.

Update: Metro parks announced on October 5 that all of the lab results have returned and that they all showed negative for Leptospirosis. They decided that with no evidence of the disease, that they would lift the advisory for pets to avoid Garfield Park. Annie Wright is now using the park for PE and other activities once again.