BARC Animal Shelter intakes unlikely until at least mid-March after positive distemper case

As long as no other dogs in BARC’s care test positive for distemper, March 14 is the earliest intakes could begin again.


FILE: Dog waiting for new home at Houston’s BARC.

Houston's animal adoption center estimates around 70 dogs were potentially exposed to distemper after they received a positive test on Thursday, Feb. 23.

Dog intake appointments will likely be closed until all dogs potentially exposed to distemper have been checked. Distemper is a contagious disease in dogs that attacks their respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system. When an animal is infected, they can develop fevers or nasal discharge. In some cases they can also show symptoms through vomit or seizures.

BARC said their medical team advised the dog be euthanized to prevent spread to other shelter animals. The shelter has yet to find any other dogs infected.

Deputy Shelter Director Cory Stottlemyer said the earliest the shelter might open dog intakes is in mid-March, as long as there continues to be no other infected dogs.

"Since this is in our evaluation area, no adoption areas are impacted," Stottlemyer said. "The cats are completely uninvolved, so it's just those two wards right now and our evaluation building."

Stottlemyer said the shelter is working to avoid cross-contamination by disinfecting potentially exposed areas in the shelter.

"Our cleaning crew will be cleaning any items in that area from the dog beds, the food bowls, in separate areas," he said.

Stottlemyer said cities such as Houston with high stray populations are more likely to have distemper outbreaks. The BARC shelter's last distemper outbreak was in 2021.

The warmer weather even during the winter also contributes to a higher stray population in comparison to areas in the north.

"We have, essentially, a year-round breeding period," Stottlemyer said. "That's why a lot of cities like Houston, we work with rescue partners, and we transfer [animals] to northern cities. Because during those harsher winter months, they don't have the same kind of stray problem we do."

All other operations aside from intakes are still encouraged to proceed as normal.

"We move pretty quickly," Stottlemyer said. "We're hoping this is just isolated to this one dog, that it won't spread, and that we can move quickly to re-open intake."

BARC also urges those with pets to stay up-to-date with vaccinations to prevent future outbreaks of viruses such as distemper.

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