Roswell animal shelter shut down to determine why animals are ill | Local News

Roswell animal shelter shut down to determine why animals are ill | Local News

Roswell Animal Services has stopped accepting new animals from the public because of an “unusually high presence of upper respiratory infections,” the city and Best Friends Animal Society announced in a press release.

The Fur-Ever Friends Fair, an animal adoption event planned for this past Saturday at Melendez Park, was canceled as well.

Also playing a role in this decision for the shelter to stop taking in dogs and cats — at least temporarily — was a local veterinarian’s report that canine distemper virus was found in a dog being held there.

“The shelter will revisit opening its doors to new animals after test results come back and any health concerns are mitigated,” the release stated.

More testing is planned next week. It’s hoped these results will provide additional information.

In the meantime, shelter staff will work with veterinary professionals to provide necessary care and treatment to the dogs that are affected.

The Roswell shelter will continue operating to assist in emergency situations, such as dog bites and cruelty investigations. Staff also “may impound dogs that pose a threat to the community or are in need of emergency intervention.”

Best Friends began working with the city in early September to improve conditions at the shelter and to ensure that it becomes a no-kill facility. Nicole Wisneskie, a representative from Best Friends, has been acting as interim director of the shelter since then.

The animal advocacy group and the city reached a grant agreement in July that includes Wisneskie overseeing the shelter operation for a year. The group will also provide financial support to the city operation during that period.

“Any increase in infectious disease in a shelter warrants further investigation and caution, including pausing the intake of community animals to avoid exposing them to a potentially serious illness,” said Dr. Erin Katribe, Medical Director of Best Friends Animal Society.

“Unfortunately, canine distemper is prevalent across the state, and we are working to determine if this is the cause of the illness we are currently seeing. In the event that distemper is identified in the shelter population, we will coordinate an outbreak response that keeps community pets safe and saves as many lives as possible at the shelter.”

Reports of distemper have been widespread over the past few months. Shelter staff in Deming had to put down more than 100 dogs with distemper and parvovirus this past summer. More recently, Clovis has seen a sharp increase in the number of distemper cases, and Lubbock, Texas, closed its shelter and adoption center because of a distemper outbreak discovered in late July.

Those who have recently adopted dogs from the Roswell shelter are advised to watch for signs of illness and, if concerns arise, to consult a veterinarian.

People are also encouraged to keep their pets’ vaccinations current. Best Friends highlighted the effectiveness of vaccinations, which can lessen the risk of distemper and other diseases.

“Pet owners can also help by taking steps to reduce the chances of their pet getting lost and going to the shelter,” the city and Best Friends emphasized.

Microchipping and using a well-fitting collar with identification tags can make it easier to find the animal’s owner. Keeping pets leashed while in public, training a pet to obey commands, along with making sure your home, yards and vehicles are secured and safe are among the ways to reduce the risk of a beloved pet becoming lost, according to animal advocates.

Leaving a dog or cat at a shelter isn’t the only way to reunite a lost animal with its owner. Best Friends reports that most lost pets are found close to home and that the rate of pet reclaiming from shelters is low.

They recommend that the found pet be taken to the Roswell shelter not to be kept there. Even though Roswell Animal Services staff won’t be accepting any animals at the shelter, at least for now, they can still scan dogs for microchips without bringing them near the animals inside that might be ill, said Alina Hauptman, a public relations strategist for Best Friends.

The chip can lead to obtaining critical information about the pet’s owner and allow it to be returned home.

Those with general questions about the animal shelter since Best Friends has arrived can come to Monday’s board meeting of Support Roswell Animals, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Roswell Public Library, 301 N. Pennsylvania Ave. Wisneskie will be the guest. Those with questions for her are asked to email them before the meeting to:

Roswell animal shelter shut down to determine why animals are ill | Local News

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