Eight dogs at city animal shelter test positive for distemper

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 11/8/18

Eight dogs at the City of Jasper Animal Shelter have now tested positive for canine distemper, amid the shelter's intake and adoption freeze.The City of Jasper confirmed to the Daily Mountain Eagle …

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Eight dogs at city animal shelter test positive for distemper

Posted

Eight dogs at the City of Jasper Animal Shelter have now tested positive for canine distemper, amid the shelter's intake and adoption freeze.

The City of Jasper confirmed to the Daily Mountain Eagle Tuesday that 10 dogs at the shelter were recently tested for the disease, and only two of the dogs had a negative test result.

On Monday, Oct. 15, the city shelter announced an adoption and intake freeze after a dog that had been in the shelter's care was diagnosed with distemper, a disease with symptoms of runny nose, cough, fever and nervous system distress.

The shelter's former manager, Jesika Pilgrim, had contacted a local animal rescue in early October to ask for assistance, since the shelter was overcrowded. The nonprofit rescue then pulled 27 dogs from the shelter, and it was one of those dogs that later tested positive for the disease.

Since the rescue, 15 of the dogs pulled have been diagnosed with distemper, along with eight newborn puppies. Some of the dogs are recovering from the disease, but many, mostly puppies, have perished.

Around the time of the first distemper diagnosis, the city shelter manager resigned from her position, according to Jasper Mayor David O'Mary.

O'Mary said Jasper Public Works Director Joe Matthews and Jasper City Clerk Kathy Chambless have since stepped up to handle the shelter's daily operations, and the city is in the process of having all dogs at the shelter tested for distemper.  

"What we're trying to do now is learn protocol and how you deal with a situation like this. We don't know, and certainly myself or the council is not going to make a call on our own," O'Mary said. "We're waiting now to see what the next round of testing shows."

The city has reached out to an unnamed university veterinarian school on best practices and how to proceed in handling the situation. O'Mary said, unfortunately, euthanasia may have to be considered, since distemper is highly contagious. The disease can be airborne and spread through shared items. 

Local animal rescue groups and the Jasper Police Department have arranged to house stray pick up animals at their own facilities until the shelter's distemper outbreak is managed.

"If we have animals that have tested positive, we're certainly not going to let them leave that shelter and infect other animals. That would not be responsible," O'Mary said.

The Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) had been confirmed to manage operations at the shelter beginning Nov. 1, but GBHS has since told the city that they will not begin management until the distemper situation is under control. 

"I can't blame them for that," O'Mary said.

The city does plan to quickly move forward with locating to a new shelter facility they have secured on Whitehouse Road, once distemper is no longer a concern.   

The city expects to have results next week on the remaining shelter dogs that were tested for distemper.

Editor's note: In an upcoming edition of the Daily Mountain Eagle, local veterinarians will explain the warning signs of distemper and discuss the importance of vaccination to prevent the deadly disease.