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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Alachua County’s Animal Resources and Care (formerly Animal Services) has documented at least two dogs infected with the canine distemper virus. The remaining dogs in the shelter are now in quarantine for at least four weeks as they are monitored for infection. A proactive response plan has been developed to maximize lifesaving and minimize further spread of the virus. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

The shelter is closed for dog adoptions and is not accepting owner surrendered dogs during this quarantine period. Un-owned dogs and dogs that are a risk to public safety that must be brought into the shelter are being housed in a separate area from the quarantined population.

This situation indicates that canine distemper virus is circulating in the community. The virus is carried by local wildlife including raccoons, foxes, skunks and coyotes. That coupled with a large population of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated dogs that have exposure to wildlife, or areas frequented by wildlife, causes strays and dogs allowed to run at large to contract the virus and bring it with them to the shelter.

In accordance with Animal Resources and Care standard operating procedures, each animal is vaccinated upon admission to the facility. But if the animal has not previously been vaccinated, it can take up to two weeks before any significant immunity to such viruses is achieved. Research suggests that puppies under six months of age are at the greatest risk and will have the lowest chance of survival if infected, but unvaccinated dogs of any age are in danger.

Animal Resources and Care personnel suggest the best course of action is to allow your veterinarian to administer an annual vaccination protocol, beginning at six weeks of age for puppies, that will include protection against distemper.

Cats are not at risk for infection by canine distemper virus and the shelter will remain open for cat adoptions.

Animal Resources and Care respectfully asks for the public’s patience as they deal with this problem. If you pick up a stray dog, please notify them so they can document it, check against their lost reports and arrange for it to be scanned for a microchip. If you can foster it for a few days or more until its owner(s) can be found, please let them know. If that is not possible, ask your friends and family if they would be willing to do so. Other nearby shelter and rescue groups may also be able to assist you.

For more information regarding these and other options, contact Animal Resources and Care at 352-264-6870. During this time the shelter will continue to open Tuesday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., excluding holidays, for cat adoptions, license renewals and to answer questions. Meanwhile, say Animal Resources and Care personnel, the field operations team will continue to respond to matters affecting public safety and animals in immediate danger 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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