A St. Louis animal shelter is closed due to a distemper outbreak that killed 17 dogs, with seven more ill. Distemper is a canine virus that is highly contagious, with no known cure.
Randy Grim, founder of Stray Rescue, says most of the dogs affected were puppies. The shelter takes care of up to 400 dogs at a time, but will not be accepting any additional strays for the next 30 days while the outbreak is going on, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Grim says distemper can disguise itself as a common shelter sickness called kennel cough, but he started getting suspicious when more dogs started falling ill. He thinks the virus most likely came from racocons in the area. Dogs with weakened immune systems and have never been vaccinated are at the most risk for catching distemper. “I have cried so much,” Grim says.
I mean, I love them. I rescue them.
Stray Rescue is taking preventive measures by isolating dogs, testing those suspected of having the virus, and getting the dogs vaccinated. Grim is uncertain about what will happen next. “This could bankrupt us,” he admits.
The shelter hopes to raise $100,000 to cover the costs of treatment, and is asking for donations in the form of towels and cleaning supplies like bleach and laundry detergent. Grim has also reached out to Maddies Fund, a progressive organization with advanced technology and guidelines for fighting problems such as this in animal shelters.
Canine distemper doesn’t affect humans or cats, but Grim recommends that dog owners vaccinate their pets to keep the virus from spreading – an everyday activity like walking a dog where an infected raccoon has urinated is enough to transmit the virus. Grim also says the state wildlife hotline is also warning pet owners about the serious distemper outbreak in areas across St. Louis.
For those who want to adopt a dog or become a foster owner, Stray Rescue welcomes the help.