BARC, Houston’s animal shelter, will have its public services closed until July 12 due to an “unusually high” presence of upper respiratory illness and two confirmed positive cases of distemper.
The city announced only one confirmed case in a news release on July 6, but in an email sent to Community Impact Newspaper by the city of Houston, BARC has received confirmation of one additional positive case for distemper, totaling two confirmed cases. In that email, the city also confirmed that BARC has isolated and is actively monitoring approximately 40 animals that are presenting upper respiratory infection symptoms, and are awaiting results of six more tests for distemper.
“BARC is taking immediate, preemptive measures to isolate the issue,” BARC Shelter Director Greg Damianoff said in the original news release. “This will allow BARC to focus our resources on treating sick animals and prevent further spread within the shelter population.”
According to the release, BARC recently impounded seven dogs that were exposed and possibly infected with distemper—a contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Distemper symptoms could include thick nasal discharge; coughing; sneezing; and, in severe cases, may affect the neurological system, resulting in seizures, tremors and death, according to the release. Distemper does not affect humans or cats.
According to the release, BARC will continue to identify, isolate and treat infected animals; monitor healthy but exposed animals for symptoms; and ensure no animals are placed into the community until they are without symptoms or past the incubation period.
During the closure of BARC’s public services, it will also conduct a deep cleaning of the shelter to reduce further contamination, according to the release.
Despite the closure of public services, BARC animal control and bite case investigations will continue to operate, according to the release. BARC will also still take in sick, injured or fading animals.
Those who have adopted a dog from the shelter that is showing potential symptoms of distemper are encouraged to contact BARC for free medical treatment. BARC will also refund adoption fees and accept returned animals from those who are unable or unwilling to care for potentially sick animals, according to the release.