BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- An outbreak of distemper has forced the Bladen County Animal Shelter to shut its doors until Monday. Now there may be a change of policy at the shelter after all of its animals had to be euthanized.
"As long as we've had these animals, of course we've got attachments to them, and it hurts every time we do it," Bladen County Animal Control supervisor Ted Carter said.
In total 50 animals, both cats and dogs, have died from the viral outbreak that closed the shelter to incoming unwanted pets. Sixteen were euthanized Tuesday morning. Another 12 were set to be put down in the afternoon, but three were already dead when employees arrived. That prompted officials to delay the reopening of the shelter from Wednesday to next week.
"It seems to be unstoppable, so we really don't have any choice," Carter said.
At least one local rescue owner says this reinforces the need for vaccination.
"It is such a simple thing. The vaccination is so effective," A Shelter Friend co-founder Silvia Kim said. "The animals at the shelter would have been fine had they been vaccinated."
Carter said animals were vaccinated two weeks ago after signs of the virus appeared. The highly contagious virus is airborne and spread quickly forcing officials to look in to preventative measures.
"Me and the health director have put our heads together on this," Carter said. "We're really considering giving animals all their shots upon intakes, and that will probably prevent some of this, especially the younger dogs."
Over the past few years, the Bladen County Animal Shelter has grown. More pens mean more animals, man of which don't have their vaccinations. Officials also say they keep stray dogs longer and only euthanize as a last resort. The increased stay means more time for a virus to spread.
This is not the first time distemper has closed a shelter in our area. Last March and July, the Brunswick County Animal Shelter was closed to incoming pets because of the virus.