Oak Ridge Police Department Conducts Mass Killing in Response to Distemper Outbreak

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.)

26 thoughts on “Oak Ridge Police Department Conducts Mass Killing in Response to Distemper Outbreak

  1. Dear God, every dog? And now they are vaccinating and quarantining? Where have they been as the rest of the country moves out of the dark ages? And the head cop is proud of his people for the way they killed all these dogs?
    I hope there are at least a few INFORMED folks in that area who will point these folks to the proper way to safely shelter animals, ways that will minimize the risk of disease.
    Words escape me . . .

  2. If this is something to be proud of ,then I would sure hate to see what he would be ashamed of.

  3. So, if my vaccinated (and high titer – seriously, his distemper titer is ridiculous) dog entered that facility, he’d still be killed, right? Because hey, it “had to be done”.


    Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Now they’re God because they *knew* that all the dogs would get sick and never recover, right? Bullshit.

  4. Just left a comment (actually 2) on your link sharing the information about how long it really takes for vaccinations to kick in.

      1. I think in place of “stupid”, you are supposed to explain how you understand nobody WANTS to kill animals and underscore how heroic they were to kill them all themselves. Promise of cupcakes wouldn’t hurt either.

  5. I just left a comment on the site that you provided a link for (an article about the killing). I recommend others do as well.

  6. Seems like we have heard Oak Ridge mentioned before but a search only showed a minor $25 adoption fee article.

    Only somewhat related to this story and the shelter is an obituary for Helen Lee Standifer from March the third, who requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials be made to the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter or SARG (Shelter Animals Rescue Group).

    I thought it might be fitting to extend her memorial here.

  7. Mine are gone, too. Guess they don’t really want to hear any comments – also sad! That tells me they will continue to do the same old sh#t!

  8. This is simply an outrage!! What in the hell were they thinking!! I can not believe there are so many freaking IDIOTS in this world! IGNORANCE is one thing, no knowing, but STUPIDITY is NOT AN EXCUSE! It can not be fixed with WD-40 or Duct Tape.. You know as well as I do that these people KNEW better than this! They just did NOT want to mess with the dogs that day or any other day. They all need to be FIRED, CRIMINALLY CHARGED, CONVICTED and SENT AWAY FOR MANY YEARS just to make them THINK VERY CAREFULLY ABOUT WHAT THEY JUST DID! HOW MANY INNOCENT LIVES THEY TOOK! This is nothing but a simple OUTRAGE and the citizens of this place should rise up and YELL TO THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS that something be done to these IDIOTS!!! I am so mad about this I could just SCREAM!!! So there. I SCREAMED! didn’t do any good, it’s going to the the citizens voices in MASSES and protests if nothing is done to these idiots.. How can this be explained away!! It can NOT be! Rise up people! BE A VOICE FOR THE POOR ANIMALS THAT HAVE NONE! AND FOR THE ONES THAT HAD NONE THAT DAY! PLEASE! DO IT FOR THE ANIMALS AND FOR YOUR GUILTY CONSCIENCE THAT YOU DID NOTHING TO STOP IT BEFORE IT HAPPENED.

  9. Im sorry but unless you are in that shelter and see what really goes on then its hard to judge. You guys don’t know how many animals were sick, how many went to rescue, how many had symptoms and the staff given advice to do this. No one cried as hard as I did that week. I lost all my sweet furbabies. They were ready for rescue. If even one of those dogs had been well I would have scooped it up and took of out the front door. They were not and could not be helped.This article should be removed from our local chat board. It is only placing fear in the community and all the work Ive done will fall thru and the animals will die. That staff is wonderful. They wanted to be with the animals and comfort them. We didn’t want strangers working with them. They cried and prayed with each one. Even the article talks about how long it takes for the vaccines to take place. This left dogs in danger of contacting distemper. Please don’t judge until you really know.

    1. Frankly, I’m glad that the killing was not an easy thing to do – it seems to be for some people. Your other option would have been to do the vaccinations, quarantine the dogs, close the facility (which happened anyway) and treat the ones who were treatable. There was no need to do a mass killing. The article states that three dogs were showing symptoms. But they all died.
      One of the problems that has resulted in so many animals being killed in “shelters” in this country is that it’s so easy to kill. People have just accepted it. That’s what happens to animals who end up there. Well, there are options, and as long as killing is the first option, the killing will continue.
      it’s not easy, but it’s not easy on those animals, either. And the article says that protection can begin within hours. And what about those dogs who were protected? Did you do any titres to see who was vulnerable? Nope, just kill em so they don’t get sick later.

    2. We know that healthy animals were killed, and we know that the people running the Oak Ridge pound think that vaccinations and cleaning are things that only need to be done *after* animals start getting sick. None of those things you list that we don’t know would change my mind about this place.

  10. It saddens me how so many people look at animals as just that…..animals. In their eyes they are just 4-legged walking pieces of fur kept around for their amusement albeit good or bad depending on the humans mood at the time. When in reality what the poor things really are, dogs and cats alike, are defenseless creatures who didn’t ask to be put on this God forsaken Earth for anybody’s twisted amusement or sadistic enjoyment. They, just like you and I, just like our own children have feelings. If you hit and kick them they cry out, it is called yelping in pain. If you throw them against a wall there bones break and they can get brain damage and concussions just like the so called human causing their needless injuries. If you stab, cut, or shoot them they bleed real blood just like the blood we bleed, same color red as ours. Their hearts beat just like ours, their lungs carry their breath, their nerves carry pain, their skin and fur feel your touch, ears hear sound, mouths taste, feet and legs walk. Believe it or not they can truly feel and respond to feelings of fear and pain as well as feelings of love and affection. And when treated with love and affection they will trust you and love you and protect you and be your best friend with all they have in them and do everything they can to be with you and make you happy, and that is all they want. Tell me, what is wrong with that? What about that makes them deserve to be treated the way some sub-humans treat them? I have 2 dogs and that I have rescued from abuse and I worked with them and nursed them back to health. It took me and them awhile but now they trust and love me more than I could have ever asked. I wish there was a law that said we could take every animal abuser and do to them exactly what they did to the poor innocent defenseless animals they were caught with or were known to have abused, maybe then those poor animals would feel like they got a little justice for the hell that they were put through before they were either rescued by sane humans or sadly rescued by God.

    1. just want to say when I wrote the above I didn’t get my name changed to replace Tiffany’s. So making a note about that now. Sorry Tiffany, didn’t mean to cause your name to be posted onto what I wrote by mistake.

  11. no, some of your comments are wrong and im not sure were they were printed. Three dogs had already died. Several dogs were tested (more than three) that they all came back positive. All the puppies were lifeless. I walked the runs before the shelter closed. All dogs showed symptoms. Volunteers had just started raising funds to give vaccines. The staff was giving vaccines on intake but it takes seven to ten days to take effect. The shelter barely has space for the dogs and they don’t have space to quarantine. Its up to you to judge, but I know what happened. Im there everyday. Cleaning the shelter is NOT done “after the fact” Its cleaned twice daily and sometimes more if enough volunteers are there. Its cleaned very heavy I the morning with bleach and other cleaners that kill parvo. I hope someday that people will understand how a shelter really works and not be so quick judge.

  12. Tiffany, I wish they would carry the same consequences that comes with harming a human. Put them in prison.

  13. Have any of you ever worked in a shelter when there was a distemper outbreak? My guess is the Oak Ridge facility doesn’t have the proper facilities or resources to handle something like this. If it is true that they don’t vaccinate on intake and don’t separate incoming animals or ill appearing animals that is not the standard of care………however, many shelters in this country are not practicing the highest standards for many, many reasons.

    Quotes from shelter medicine programs are great but one thing we know in medicine is that all circumstances need to be evaluated individually. I know I don’t know all of the details of this case and neither do most of you.

    Animal lovers really need to stop beating up the people in our society who are brave enough to work in these big city animal control facilities. These places don’t have the luxury of turning away animals that aren’t cute, friendly or healthy. They have to accept all unwanted animals. That makes for messy situations. Are all of them perfect, no, but most people who work in shelters are not evil as so many of you seem to believe. Getting angry about this is appropriate it just seems that you are angry at the wrong people.

    1. Oh, let me guess – the irresponsible public is to blame again, aren’t they?

      How about this? The moment an animal enters a shelter’s care, the shelter is RESPONSIBLE for that animal’s well-being. I don’t care if the animal is there because of dog fighters, back yard breeders, puppy millers, or just someone who didn’t give a rat’s ass. Once that animal crosses the threshold, EVERYTHING that happens to that animal is on the shelter staff.

      “Quotes from shelter medicine programs are great but one thing we know in medicine is that all circumstances need to be evaluated individually.”

      How about evaluating all animals individually? Like choosing to titer rather than mass slaughter? Like shutting down intake until you can evaluate which animals are ill and which ones aren’t?

      “Are all of them perfect, no, but most people who work in shelters are not evil as so many of you seem to believe. ”

      Some are certainly evil and enjoy the killing. Others are just lazy and embrace the culture of killing because it’s the easiest thing to do. Me, I’m not willing to accept the lowest rung on the ladder as “the best we can do”. Are you?

  14. Wow passion that’s what it is all about no one killed dogs they were humanely euthanized and yes it stinks but like michelle said it was not done for any reason other than the dogs were sick. I am around shelters on a daily basis and have been for over a decade and at least some people are willing to do this job just to save one animal not for the gigantic salary or the awards and acalades they receive on a daily basis from the adoring public but simply because they are willing to deal with this mess to just save one more.

    1. Okay, then take a look at the shelters that are true shelters and send many more out the front door alive. They think ahead and have procedures in place for dealing with these kinds of things, that do happen everywhere. They plan for them, they do what they can to prevent them from happening.
      Sorry, but I know of too many people who don’t do the best for the animals in their care. Many do, but surely not all. And the sad thing is that when we accept “it’s the best we can do” the animals pay with their lives. That’s my bottom line.
      Lots of folks step up to rescue, too, and for many of us there are no accolades or awards or salary at all. In fact, many rescuers end up paying out of their own pocket.
      Bottom line is there are good and bad everywhere. And there were likely dogs killed who were already vaccinated, who had protection and would not have gotten sick and they didn’t deserve to die. I hope the facility is now doing routine vaccinations upon intake and setting up some kind of quarantine area and cleaning protocols that will minimize the chances of this happening ever again.
      And, for crying out loud, if there are so many unvaccinated animals in your community, then write some grants, educate them and help them get their animals vetted and sterilized. Do something besides crying and lamenting the loss of these precious souls!

  15. I don’t care whether or not it was right or wrong my 3 dogs were in the shelter due to me becoming homeless and my mother going behind my back to relinquish them while I was working on finding a place. I know for a fact that all 3 of my dogs were up to date on ALL of their vaccines. As a person now currently working as a veterinary technition i know that my 3 dogs were not showing symptoms and due to you not wanting to wait a few weeks to assess each individual dogs condition you went ahead and put them all to sleep. Why would a place where not only do people DONATE MONEY to that is non-profit and supposedly dedicated to giving these dogs a second chance with proper care and LOVE make an unneccessary and irrational decision to euthanize all dogs? The people surrendering animals would have gladly taken their dogs to Young Williams if you stayed closed for assessment. People would have understood and you as a shelter would be looked at in a much more positive way. Was it really worth it? Did you really do everything you could? Or did you take the easy way out? I know that MY dogs and many others suffered a fate undeserved. You stripped them of their chance at forever happiness. Im not proud that I failed my dogs. It haunts my dreams every night. The bottom line is you guys are saying you tried your best not so people will believe you, because we all know what people believe doesnt matter, but to try and make yourself feel better by convincing yourself you did what was necessary. I dont wish anything bad on any of the people involved in making this call or the people who followed directions because in the end your consious will put you thru more mental anguish than any punishment on earth. Just remember their faces when the finally came to realize they were sentenced to death. Stop making excuses, grow up and accept responsibility for your actions. ♥R.I.P. Jazzy, Zorro, and Zeus♥

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