TN – The Oak Ridge police department, which runs the pound, closed the facility one week ago after two dogs tested positive for distemper:
As a precaution, all animals brought into the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter are being vaccinated on arrival. The shelter is separating dogs with any kind of cough or nasal discharge from dogs available for adoption.
These are not precautionary practices that a facility should institute in the face of an outbreak but rather standard protocols which should be in place 365 days a year. It’s unclear to me what standard operating procedures are in Oak Ridge:
[Lt. Robin] Smith said the shelter staff vaccinates all animals, but it takes about 10 days for the vaccine to do any good.
So wrong. As Maddie’s Fund indicates, vaccination prior to or immediately upon intake for all shelter animals is critical and provides protection within hours:
Immunity is not typically an “all or nothing” condition. For some diseases of concern in shelter settings, particularly respiratory illness, vaccination serves to protect from serious symptoms rather than infection.
Additionally, animals will begin to be protected from the worst effects of other diseases, such as canine distemper in a very short time. At the 2011 Shelter Medicine Conference at the University of Florida, Dr. Annette Litster, Director of Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Program at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, told the audience, “With canine distemper virus, challenge studies have shown a really incredibly fast response to a modified live vaccine, or a recombinant vaccine. Within four hours of an effective vaccine, those dogs are protected – provided there’s not a problem with maternal immunity – from the really severe neurological effects of challenge with canine distemper. There’s complete protection within 7 days after vaccination from the challenge studies that have been published.”
If the Oak Ridge pound had been vaccinating upon intake across the board, utilizing routine cleaning practices and quarantining new arrivals, those in charge might have a better understanding of disease prevention and management. From the Koret Shelter Medicine Program info sheet on Canine Distemper Virus (CDV):
The most important factor in disease risk is vaccination: a “fully” vaccinated animal over four months of age is at very low risk of CDV infection. However, even incompletely vaccinated animals may survive a possible exposure.
Relying on incorrect information not based in science, Oak Ridge killed every one of the thirty dogs in the pound – including the majority who appeared to be healthy:
Smith said that the shelter staff refused outside help with the euthanasia. He said they wanted to do it themselves and ensure the animals knew they were loved and cared for.
“I have never been prouder of that staff doing a horrible job that needed to be done,” [Chief James] Akagi said.
Death be not proud. That “horrible job” did not need to be done. The job that needs to be done here is for the police department in charge of the pound to educate itself on how vaccinations work to prevent disease in conjunction with standard cleaning and isolation practices. Ensuring animals are loved and cared for includes at least minimal education on standard disease prevention and management practices for shelters.
(Thanks Clarice for sending me this story.)