Distemper scare at pounds puts hold on dog adoptions

By: Staff report

LUMBERTON — No dogs will be adopted out of the Robeson County Animal Shelter for two weeks as a precaution against the possibility of distemper, an often fatal disease that is highly contagious.

The action was taken, effective Tuesday, at the recommendation of shelter medical director Dr. Curt Locklear, said Bill Smith, director of the Robeson County Department of Health. The shelter, located at 255 Landfill Road in St.Pauls, will resume adopting out dogs on May 8.

An inspector from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services conducted an inspection of the shelter on April 17 and on Tuesday, Smith said. The inspections were prompted by complaints from people who said they adopted a dog, or dogs, from the shelter and the animals later died of distemper.

Smith said he didn’t know how many complaints the state agency received.

“I don’t know,” Smith said. “All we know about is two.”

The complaints he knows about concern dogs adopted from the shelter that died later of distemper, Smith said. Smith said in at least one case an animal was not taken immediately to a veterinarian after being adopted, which the shelter advises.

It typically takes five days to two weeks for distemper symptoms to manifest, he said.

“These have all been 30 days out,” Smith said.

Canine distemper is a contagious and serious viral illness with no known cure. The disease affects dogs, and certain species of wildlife, such as raccoons, wolves, foxes, and skunks, according to the PetMD website. The virus, which is spread through the air and by direct or indirect contact with an infected animal, initially attacks a dog’s tonsils and lymph nodes and replicates itself there for about one week. It then attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

The Agriculture Department inspectors conducted a thorough inspection, Smith said. They checked the facilities, the animal intake records and the dogs’ health. On Tuesday the inspector even checked the temperature of each of the 60 dogs at the shelter.

All the dogs were deemed healthy, he said.

“It was a good morning,” Smith said.

But dog adoptions will be put on hold as a precaution. People will be allowed to reclaim a dog that they own that ends up at the shelter.

“If we’re holding someone’s dog we won’t keep it,” he said.

The dog may have been held at the shelter because it was caught running free without a tag, because it bit someone and needed to be checked for rabies, or some other reason. Regardless, the owner can come get the dog.

“For a couple dollars,” Smith said.

The shelter charges a $5-per-day holding fee to cover the costs of feeding and taking care of the animal. There is a 10-day hold for dogs being checked for rabies, and an owner can’t reclaim the dog until the end of the 10 days.

Cat adoptions will continue.


Staff report