The Morristown Hamblen Humane Society shelter has temporarily closed its doors for dog intakes while it deals with an outbreak of canine distemper, a devastating, highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of dogs.
The shelter, which dealt with another distemper outbreak in October, has already euthanized the animals that tested positive for the disease upon discovery of its presence and are testing/watching the other dogs in the facility.
“Unfortunately, the virus is circulating through the wildlife right now- raccoons, coyotes and the foxes,” Executive Director Pam Wilder said. “People that have dogs that have come across any of those animals that have gone through their yard, and they are not vaccinated, will most likely get distemper. So when they pick those dogs up and they end up at the shelter, we vaccinate on intake. However, that doesn’t take care of it if they haven’t been previously vaccinated.”
Wilder said it can take 7 to 10 days for symptoms to show, by which time the whole shelter can be affected.
The shelter will be quarantining its canines for two weeks while the organization responds to the unfolding situation. They are retesting the dogs to see if any of them have the disease.
The shelter is working with Dr. Rebekah Debolt with the University of Tennessee to try to save the remaining dogs.
After two weeks, if the remaining dogs test negative, the “all-clear” will be given and the shelter will resume normal practices.
Wilder said the best way people can help is to get their dogs vaccinated against the disease to help stop the spread of the disease outside of the shelter.
“It’s an easy fix- a $12 of $15 vaccine will take care of it and we wouldn’t have this problem,” she said.