Alachua County Animal Resources & Care (formerly Animal Services) has now documented a total of four dogs infected with the canine distemper virus. In accordance with their proactive response plan, developed to maximize lifesaving and minimize further spread of the virus, dog adoptions were suspended immediately. Dogs with direct exposure to the infected were quarantined, tested, and continue to be monitored for symptoms. The majority of the dog population was not directly exposed and continues to be symptom-free.
Cats are not at risk for infection by the canine distemper virus and will continue to be available for adoption. However, dogs are not available for adoption, and the shelter is not accepting owner-surrendered dogs during the quarantine period. Unowned dogs and dogs that are a risk to public safety, that must be brought into the shelter, are being housed in a separate area from the quarantined population. Different staff are dedicated to providing care for the dogs in each area to prevent cross-contamination.
As a precaution, shelter staff have also contacted everyone who adopted, transferred, or reclaimed a dog from Animal Resources & Care during December to ascertain whether their adoptee was symptomatic and to offer drive-by testing in the shelter parking lot. To date, no additional cases of infection have been found in those dogs.
Once again, it’s important to note that the canine distemper virus is carried by local wildlife, including raccoons, foxes, skunks, and coyotes. That coupled with a large population of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated dogs having exposure to wildlife, or areas frequented by wildlife causes strays and dogs allowed to run at large to contract the virus and bring it with them to the shelter. The present situation indicates that canine distemper virus is circulating in our community and emphasizes why it is so important for dog owners to consult with their veterinarian to ensure their dog is properly vaccinated.
“Animal Resources & Care respectfully asks for the public’s patience as we deal with this problem,” said Animal Resources & Care Director Ed Williams. “If you pick up a stray dog, please notify us so we can document it, check against our lost reports, and arrange for it to be scanned for a microchip. Those who can foster it for a few days or more until its owner(s) can be found, please let them know. If that is not possible, ask friends and family if they would be willing to do so. Other nearby shelters and rescue groups may also be able to assist.”
During this time the shelter will continue to be open on Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., excluding holidays, and field operations team will continue to respond to matters affecting public safety and animals in immediate danger 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
For more information, contact Animal Resources & Care at 352-264-6870.