Friday, February 15, 2013
Walker County Animal Shelter is open again after shutting its doors to the public Jan. 22-Feb. 5 in response to an outbreak of parvo. The quarantine was an effort to keep potentially exposed pets inside away from the outside pet population following the death of several dogs at the shelter. Parvo is highly contagious and easily transmitted.
“We believe to the best of our ability that the parvo came from a semi-feral mother dog that had been abandoned,” said shelter manager Alison Smith. “The mother dog had a litter of puppies that were 3 to 4 weeks old. Her puppies started dying and she died. We had two other dogs come in that died too. That’s when we got in touch with a veterinarian to do a quarantine.”
Since the mother dog had escaped and run down the hall, Smith was concerned that the disease might spread.
“Most of the dogs we had at the time are still fine,” she said. “Parvo is an easily preventable virus with annual vaccines.”
Once contracted, however, the intestinal virus is “typically fatal.” All dogs — old, young, in good or poor health — can contract parvovirus if they have not been vaccinated, she noted, adding that wild coyotes, foxes and wolves carry parvo too, making it a threat that also exists beyond the walls of any shelter.
In order to eradicate traces of parvo at Walker County Animal Shelter, staff used one part bleach to 30 parts water to scrub floors.
“We bleached the whole building,” said Smith. “We treated the runs repeatedly throughout the day.”
The shelter’s staff is hoping to partner more with the community this year in order to find homes for the many stray cats and dogs that are brought to the shelter each week.
“One of the most critical things that make a shelter successful — and that’s lacking — is community support,” said Smith. “We are here to provide shelter and hope that there are enough empty homes out there looking to fill that void with a pet. The way the community can support the shelter is through volunteering, fostering and adopting pets.”
Foster families are an extension of the Walker County Animal Shelter and are therefore responsible for the safety and well-being of the pets in their care, she explained. Smith said foster families should take the pets in their care to dog parks and on other field trips.
“I need 30 foster families to save these animals,” said Smith, adding that is her annual plea. “The responsibility of a foster family is to bring a pet into their home for two to six weeks to allow the animal time to be socialized.”
Dogs housed at the shelter are petted and walked by staff in order to help socialize them and are given their own space and bed along with food and water twice per day. The shelter’s staff works with animal rescue services to adopt them out.