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Dallas Animal Services says it was an 'exceptionally bad' year for distemper, asks public for help

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Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center
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Dallas Animal Services is trying to keep distemper numbers down in a few ways, mainly by vaccinating dogs and keeping them out of the shelter until their vaccines kick in.

Distemper is a contagious, often-fatal disease that attacks a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems. Dallas Animal Services has seen 112 cases of distemper since November, according to its website.

That's a small number out of the total number of dogs, but distemper is a serious illness, Dallas Animal Services spokesperson Marlo Clingman said.

"This disease can spread like wildfire,” she said.

Dallas Animal Services is trying to keep distemper numbers down in a few ways, mainly by vaccinating dogs and keeping them out of the shelter until their vaccines kick in. That’s why the shelter is asking people to foster newly surrendered and vaccinated dogs for three days.

“Those hours really matter,” Clingman said. “We say three days, but it really is that 72 hours [that] gives that distemper vaccine time to course through their immune system and ensure that they have some level of immunity before they walk through our doors."

The shelter also wants to avoid taking in unvaccinated dogs. Dallas Animal Services is asking people who bring in strays to schedule a vaccination and take them back home for 72 hours if possible.

"You need a crate, we'll give it to you. Food, whatever you need to keep that dog for three days, we'll give it to you,” Clingman said.

Until disease levels get better, Dallas Animal Services will also stop accepting owner-surrendered dogs, unless the owner is in an emergency situation or has already scheduled an appointment. Dallas Animal Services’ website lists resources for those who need help feeding their pets and offers ways to rehome a pet while avoiding the shelter.

Vaccinated dogs who don’t show signs of illness or test negative for distemper will still be available for adoption. Dallas Animal Services has also partnered with the Spay Neuter Network to offer multiple free vaccination clinics in May and June.

Dallas Animal Services isn’t the only local organization to suffer a distemper outbreak in the past year. The Humane Society of North Texas had to close animal intakes in July 2021 due to the disease.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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