Garland Animal shelter dealing with widespread outbreak of canine distemper

Garland Animal Shelter employees are working around the clock to contain an outbreak of canine distemper, a highly contagious, airborne disease.

33 dogs have now tested positive for the illness. Staff and volunteers are cleaning the shelter from top to bottom so no more dogs become infected.

Von Husbands, with the Shih Tzus rescue Tzu Zoo showed Pluto, to FOX 4. He’s one of the last 6 dogs to test positive for distemper that has not been rescued. Some of the dogs to test positive were already in homes.

"This one I'm worried a little bit about, because he is very lethargic,” said Husbands. “They're suffering."

The American Veterinary Medical Association says there is no cure for the disease, but the ASPCA says some dogs are able to survive distemper with treatment.

Husbands managed to find a pet hospital in Allen to treat the dogs.

“We will worry about the money later like we always do. We can't sit around and wait because the dogs are dying,” said Husbands.

It’s something that Amy Vorster, the shelter’s outreach coordinator, knows all too well. She adopted her puppy, Daisy, two weeks ago, having no idea she had the deadly disease.

“We went to 2 different vets, thought it was kennel cough then bronchitis, but because she was vaccinated, no one wanted to do a distemper test,” she said.

Daisy was suffering to the point she could not eat, and had to be euthanized.

“We brought it to the attention of the shelter when I saw it was distemper, that’s when we decided okay we need to check out all these animals,” said Vorster

The shelter is housing dogs that tested negative in a temporary location that typically stores brine for the city streets in the winter. 

Lucy Deterding has been working to rescue one of the dogs.

“When she first got to the shelter she weighed 38 pounds, when I picked her up August 3rd, she weighed 30, then two days later she weighed 25,” said Deterding. “It’s hard to treat distemper, all of us are emotional wrecks.”

The Garland Animal Shelter vaccinates all dogs that come in for distemper, but it takes time for the vaccine to take effect.

The shelter has suspended adoptions, but does need help from people willing to foster the 35 dogs that tested negative for the disease. 

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