Exclusive: USDA Says Its Testing Does Not Verify SARS-CoV-2 in North Carolina Family Dog, Contrary to Deluge of National Media Reports

USDA Says Its Testing Does NOT Verify SARS-CoV-2 in North Carolina Family Dog, Contrary to Deluge of National Media Reports

Four weeks ago today, a family’s dog in North Carolina named Winston became an overnight celebrity when the news media declared that Winston was positive for Coronavirus.

Chapel Hill pug tests positive for coronavirus; first known dog case in the US” – NBC News affiliate WRAL

Today, The Canine Review received the following statement from USDA APHIS spokesperson Joelle Hayden:

We now have the results. NVSL [the National Veterinary Services Laboratories] conducted confirmatory testing but was unable to verify infection in this dog. No virus was isolated, and there was no evidence of an immune response using the available test. The weak detection by PCR from the original oral swab may be the result of contamination from the COVID-19 positive household.”

In fact, USDA-APHIS has not confirmed any SARS-CoV-2 positive dogs. The only pets its scientists have been able to verify as positive for the virus are two household cats in New York state:

Source: USDA-APHIS website, 5/27/2020


Winston would have been the first known case of SARS-CoV-2 in an American dog. What no network TV anchor mentioned to viewers was that U.S. officials had not yet confirmed, nor had they received testing samples from the Duke researchers who first made the claims about Winston to NBC local affiliate WRAL.

Dr. Chris Woods, the lead researcher on the Duke University study who was presumably responsible for the original testing on Winston, and for announcing those test results to the media, has not returned our requests for comment. We also asked Dr. Woods if any veterinarian was involved in his study’s coronavirus testing on Winston. He has not responded.

Of course, responsibility for getting the facts falls primarily on reporters, not sources, which brings us to CBS News, NBC News, ABC News, and other major news organizations that ran the story without noting that the dog’s test results were still pending confirmation from the USDA.

TCR will reach out to some of the networks for comment about whether and when they are issuing corrections and report back.