The BARCS animal shelter in South Baltimore isn’t taking in any dogs at the moment due to a confirmed case of canine distemper.
In a note posted to its website yesterday, the shelter said it’s opted to “temporarily suspend all dog intakes until there is no risk to any dogs coming into our shelter.” Most dogs at BARCS aren’t being adopted out, and are being held in quarantine and under medical supervision “until we can ensure they are medically cleared for adoption,” the note said.
Reached by phone Friday afternoon, BARCS executive director Jennifer Brause said 115 dogs are currently quarantined. They won’t be available for adoption again for at least 10 days.
“Nobody’s going in or out from the main shelter,” she said. “We really won’t have anything changed until the next couple weeks as we continue to monitor.”
Between 10 and 20 dogs are still available for adoption from BARCS since they were already stayed in a separate facility away from the pup diagnosed with distemper, Brause said. All them have been medically cleared.
Canine distemper attacks a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Most contract it by air – such as through sneezing or coughing – though it can also be shared through shared bowls and equipment or at birth. An infected dog can spread the virus for months if left untreated.
Adopters who recently took dogs that could have been at risk of contracting the virus have been notified, the shelter said.
Luckily, humans and cats can’t contract the virus, and puppies can receive vaccinations against it. Furthermore, distemper can only last for a few hours in an environment, assuming other dogs aren’t transmitting it.
“BARCS vaccinates all dogs against distemper on intake to our facility, and our medical team provides appropriate booster vaccinations throughout an animal’s stay in the shelter,” the shelter said, adding, “The risk of infection and disease for a properly vaccinated dog is quite low.”
Those looking to adopt a cat from BARCS still have the green light. The shelter has waived all adoption fees for felines for now. Nearly 100 cats are currently listed as available on BARCS’ website.
Brause noted the pup who became infected should serve as a reminder to locals to make sure their animals are up to date on their vaccines.
“If there’s a distemper case, that’s in our community,” she said.
This story has been updated with comment from BARCS executive director Jennifer Brause.