Monday, June 5, 2017

Animal Shelter Reopens

No Dogs To Be Euthanized After Distemper Quarantine

By Mandy Catoe
June 4, 2017

After an exhausting, month-long distemper crisis, the Lancaster County Animal Shelter is back in operation, and none of the 25 quarantined dogs will have to be euthanized, county officials said Friday.
“This is the whole reason we are here,” said a relieved shelter Director Alan Williams, who cannot recall his last day off. “We beat the odds.”
Williams praised Dr. Cynda Crawford, a specialist from the University of Florida who consulted with the county on its response and performed $17,000 in distemper tests for free.
Crawford praised Williams back.

“I have not had the pleasure to work with as good a sheltering community as you all have there with Alan,” she said Friday. “It has been a real pleasure to work with Lancaster County. They have done an amazing job saving lives.”
Williams said it was a team effort involving his staff of two, the S.C. Humane Society, the Charleston Animal Society and the Lancaster Area Shelter Supporters.
The distemper outbreak forced the county to close the under-sized shelter May 10. After removing the 25 dogs, the county sanitized and painted the kennels.
For the past month, shelter staff provided antibiotics and vaccines to the sequestered dogs housed in 20 tarp-covered kennels about a quarter mile from the shelter. The operation looked like a mobile hospital providing disaster relief.
A few of the 25 have returned to the shelter, and others will too. Some will go straight to rescue groups, and at least six will leave for the Charleston County Animal Society on Tuesday. 
Dr. Crawford
Crawford, who specializes in shelter medicine, advised Williams through the ordeal.
“A lot of dogs literally owe them and our shelter staff their lives,” said Steve Willis, county administrator. “I do want to commend Alan. I don’t know of many small shelters that would have spent the time and resources he has to try and save these animals.”
The county reopened the shelter Tuesday, and in just three days, 30 dogs had been brought in by animal control. Most were in the freshly painted kennels and about six were in the brand new recently-donated portable kennel. Lancaster Area Shelter Supporters raised $17,000 earlier in the year for the portable housing unit.
 Williams was relieved and tired Friday afternoon. He worked through Memorial Day weekend.
Standing in the middle of boxes, piles of paper and yet-to-be-hooked-up office machines, he said he worked the holiday to get the shelter ready for opening Tuesday.
“I had to get the runs ready,” he said. “We could not put animal control off any longer.”
Williams praised Crawford for her life-saving guidance and the money she saved the county.
Each of the 25 dogs was tested three times for distemper. Crawford provided the service for free, and Williams said she was “lickety split” with the results.
He said the county would have paid $225 for each distemper test.
Testing for distemper was no easy task, he said.
Williams held each dog as Assistant Director Carissa Valenti swabbed its nose, eyes, and throat and put the specimens in a separate vial for each dog. They then sent the tests to the University of Florida.
By telephone Friday afternoon, Crawford said the Lancaster shelter, despite limited resources, is now at the forefront of what shelters can do.
“I am very thankful that Alan reached out to me when he started noticing unusual respiratory symptoms,” she said. “The old response, and what too many shelters still do today, is to euthanize all dogs, infected or not, in the shelter to eliminate the virus to have a clean sweep and start over.”
Williams said the distemper outbreak is running rampant in the state.
“We can’t stop this unless people get their dogs vaccinated,” Williams said. “You can go to Tractor Supply or Elgin Feed and Garden and buy your shot for distemper for $10 for your dog.”
He said dogs need three shots and puppies need four.
“So for under $50, you don’t have to worry about distemper,” he said.
Dogs kept at home are at risk because coyotes, raccoons and foxes spread distemper. The wild animals eat the dog’s food and leave the infectious virus in the dog’s bowl.

Valenti talked about the quarantined dogs.
“The two boxers down there made it through parvo,” she said. “And now we helped them get through this.”
She said they will be Charleston-bound next week.
Williams said most dogs come in and leave within a week, but the quarantined dogs have been with them a month now.
“We know every one of them,” he said. “Their personalities and everything.”
Valenti and Williams worked through the mud, the heat and humidity to give the dogs a fighting chance. And every one of them made it.
“It is so much easier to put a dog to sleep because he is mean or injured,” Williams said.  “It is to hard to watch a sick one suffer and die. That ain’t easy.”
Williams said he has been frustrated a few times through the ordeal and is sure that mood was conveyed in a recent e-mail or two to Willis.
“I can’t say enough about Steve Willis,” he said. “He comes down here every other day, and some days, I know he’s just coming by to boost my spirits.”

Follow Reporter Mandy Catoe on Twitter @MandyCatoeTLN or contact her at (803) 283-1152.

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