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Animal shelter opens doors again

Wednesday was a slow day at the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association, though officials don't expect that to last long.

The shelter reopened Thursday, two weeks after closing its doors to deal with a canine distemper outbreak.

Executive Director Donna Clark expected a flood of animals to come through the doors after the break, but as of Thursday afternoon, that hadn't happened. They'd taken in a litter of nine puppies, five stray dogs and a few cats.  

"We're hoping it's not the calm before the storm," Clark said.

The shelter cleared out nearly all of the animals it was holding before the outbreak, largely through community adoptions, though some that were "beyond help" were put down.

Canine distemper is a viral disease that can cause respiratory and neurological issues. There's a vaccine that is very effective but for dogs that develop the disease, there's no quick cure - though with care, dogs can recover.

"They just need some TLC," Clark said. "The shelter is not the place for them to recover, though. This is no place for sick animals."

Moving forward, shelter staff plan to be more vigilant with incoming dogs, looking more closely for signs of disease. But Clark wants those bringing in the animals to be more careful, too.

"If it has been sick at least let us know up front," she said.

Then, of course, there's the staple message of the animal shelter community: "Immunize, immunize, immunize."

"It's like spaying and neutering - we say it all the time, but people still don't do it," Clark said.

She was grateful for the steady stream of adoptions that allowed for cleaning (employees and volunteers spent two weeks scrubbing all the shelter's surfaces with bleach and Lysol) and the reopening.

They expected to be closed for at least three weeks, but a steady stream of adoptions cleared out the shelter quicker than expected.

Now, she hopes that all of the animals have found good homes with people willing and ready to care for them. She doesn't want them to end up back at the shelter.

They're gearing up for the often-busy post-Christmas season, when some families inevitably donate pets that seemed like a good idea at Christmas, but became too much of a chore or a burden once their holiday spirit faded.

"In two weeks it will be busy in here," Clark said.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.



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