NOTE: I originally l wrote the post thinking that Trisha, the adopter, had gotten the dog from the Mobile SPCA, which is a “no-kill” guaranteed adoption” shelter. Turns out, I misunderstood, not knowing the difference between it and the Mobile County shelter. I have amended this entry to reflect that. Also, apologies to the Mobile SPCA, which, one hopes, might actually vaccinate upon arrival!)
This is not an NC story, but I’m sure there have a been a few like it here : A family adopts a dog from the Mobile County shelter only to discover it has distemper a week later. The mom called the shelter to alert them and discovered that the sheter had killed 86 dogs over the past month because of the disease. The adopted dog, Captain, had not been vaccinated until a week and a half after his arrival at the shelter.
Waiting a week and a half to deliver a vaccination that should be given first thing upon arrival is a recipe for disease outbreak. Especially when 450 distemper-infected racoons have been captured in your area recently. An easily imagined scenario is that the Mobile county shelter didn’t vaccinate Captain until after they discovered their distemper outbreak and were hoping to do some damage control.
And once they discovered the outbreak, did the shelter do the responsible thing and let the community know, counseling every adopter for signs to watch out for and advising them on safe practices to make sure they aren’t inadvertently spreading distemper to other dogs? It appears not. Captain’s new family wasn’t warned. A Google search for various permutations of Mobile, AL, and distemper turns up no news articles, alerts or press releases (except regarding the raccoon distemper epidemic), and there is nothing at all on the Mobile County shelter site.
As for Captain, as of yesterday he was still hanging in there , with a lot of love and care from his new family.
Over the past few months, distemper has closed pounds and cost the lives of hundreds of dogs in North Carolina. Robeson, Duplin, Wayne, Mecklenburg, Iredell and Ashe counties have all had outbreaks in their pounds, and there are probably more places where the pounds are keeping their outbreaks hushed up. In many cases, the shelter directors, most of whom did not have a policy of vaccination upon intake, blamed pet owners for not vaccinating.
Meanwhile, the NC branch of HSUS and the Richmond County Humane Society (which runs the county pound) teamed up to make it easy and affordable for “underserved” pet owners in that county to help stop distemper via a $3 vaccination clinic. Each $3 copay for the donated vaccines was to go to the participating vet clinics, and pet owners would be referred to the vets for further services. But veterinarians Will Cooley of Cooley Veterinary Hospital in Rockingham, and Ralph Souder of Gandy Animal Hospital decided not to participate in the clinic, which was to be held Saturday in Rockingham.
In a stunning display of complete stupidity and irresponsibility, Cooley said: “The general public’s animals are not affected by the distemper outbreak. We feel like non-profits are coming in to practice veterinary medicine. This hype about distemper alarms the public about a problem that is not a problem. They were not going to address the problem. Gathering dogs that are unvaccinated in one area would only make the problem worse.”
He went on to say that NC State University veterinary students, who were going to perform the actual vaccinations as practice, don’t need the practice and should “go to shelters and vaccinate those dogs.” While that would be a fantastic idea, Cooley’s argument that the “general public” shouldn’t bother vaccinating their dogs amid a statewide distemper outbreak is appalling.
Would Cooley say the same if someone were paying him the going rate of $15-30 per shot (plus office visit fee) for the service, or would he shut up, vaccinate the dogs and thank the owners for their business?