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Here are the top stories for Thursday, February 9th: Trump summons senators for pitch for Gorsuch; Powerful snowstorm pummels northeast; Sessions sworn in as Attorney General; and an orange alligator on the loose in South Carolina. AP

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SPRINGFIELD TWP. - A deadly and highly contagious canine virus has a puppy shop quarantined and permanently closed, Burlington County officials reported.

Puppy Barn, on Route 206, closed Jan. 30 and has no intention of reopening, store owners said in a letter to county officials, according to a statement from the freeholder board.

"The Puppy Barn has long been a member of the Burlington County business community, helping many families find loving pets over their decades in operation," Freeholder Director Bruce Garganio said.

But the shop, opened three decades ago, was placed under mandatory quarantine by the county health department after inspections by it and the Burlington County SPCA found parvo at the store.

Parvo attacks rapidly dividing cells in a dog’s body, most severely affecting the intestinal tract, according to webmd.com. When puppies are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle, the site says. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea.

Animals at the Puppy Barn were transported to the Burlington County Animal Shelter. They could be made available for adoption once the quarantine is lifted and a veterinarian determines the animals are cleared.

A group claiming it's dedicated to eradicating puppy mills by shutting down stores like the Puppy Barn created a Facebook group with 1,300 members called Shut Down the Puppy Barn. The group claimed parvo circulated at the shop, and puppies were dying.

Burlington County SPCA Humane Police said on Facebook that reports of one dead dog were incorrect, posting a photo of the puppy.

The county SPCA, however, posted about investigations related to the shop. The group asked that customers who believe puppies purchased from the shop in December and January were sick should reach out with original paperwork. The SPCA also vowed on Feb. 3 it would send officers to visit the shop every day or every other day for two weeks to "ensure proper care of the puppies is maintained."

The Puppy Barn responded on Jan. 29 to reports of dying dogs and insisted the shop did not willingly sell animals exposed to or later diagnosed with parvo. Puppies exposed to diagnosed pets were quarantined, it maintained in the online statement.

"The Puppy Barn did NOT willingly sell a pup that they thought was ill, there is an incubation period for all viruses and stress of a new environment can escalate this," a Jan. 29 statement on the Puppy Barn's Facebook page said.

"Please understand that this is part of the animal world, and that this store DOES CARE, and that everything will be done to make sure all the rest of the pups in the store are monitored closely."

Carly Q. Romalino; (856) 486-2476; cromalino@gannettnj.com

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