ANSON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Seventeen dogs at the Anson County Animal Shelter had to be euthanized due to a distemper outbreak according to the director of the shelter, Maureen Lett.
Lett said that the outbreak likely started after a dog carrying the viral disease was brought in to the shelter in March. Once shelter workers learned one dog had the disease, they started testing others at the facility.
The shelter hasn't been taking dogs in or adopting them out of the facility since the distemper outbreak was discovered.
"We haven't been open since March 30th," Lett told WBTV in a phone interview Tuesday.
She said that they had 34 dogs test negative for the disease and are still awaiting the test results of three other dogs living in the shelter. Lett said the funding for the tests has come from a program called Maddie's Fund which is run through the University of Florida.
The shelter director said her team is in the process of cleaning out the facility to prevent the spread of distemper.
"We've thrown blankets away. Anything that can't be really bleached and sanitized and cleaned we've had to throw everything away," said Lett.
She said the shelter will likely remain closed for the rest of the week.
Danielle Spuler, the president of the South Charlotte Dog Rescue, said that one of the dogs her organization adopted from the shelter died of distemper.
She said the dog was pregnant and was able to give birth before it died.
"When the babies were about a week old, she started showing the symptoms and within 24 hours she was gone," said Spuler about the dog.
Spuler thinks the situation could have been prevented if all dogs taken to the shelter were vaccinated as soon as they entered the facility.
"I think we have a larger issue where it's not policy for us to vaccinate on intake," said the rescue president.
Lett said shelter workers will immediately vaccinate dogs surrendered by their owners, but will wait up 72 hours before vaccinating a stray dog that comes in to the shelter, in case an owner comes to get the dog.
Lett also referenced a lack of money as one of the issues plaguing the shelter when it comes to vaccinating.
"We do not have a big budget for animal care here in the county. We're a poor, rural county," explained the director.
Spuler hopes that pet owners, rescue groups and veterinarians in the Anson County area use the situation as a warning.
"If you have dogs in Anson (County) and they're un-vaccinated, you're at risk, you're at risk," said Spuler.
Both Spuler and Lett encourage pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated for distemper. Lett said the shelter partnered with a veterinarian last weekend to give out free distemper vaccines to dog owners.