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Painting at animal shelter intended to disinfect facility

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A painting project at the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association's shelter isn't just about giving the facility a facelift.

It's also about disinfecting the structure.

The shelter was forced to close its doors Dec. 19 after an outbreak of distemper in dogs and panleukopenia in cats. The shelter was disinfected and reopened about two weeks later.

Kanawha commissioners opted to send painters contracted by the county to paint the inside of the shelter as part of the cleanup.

The crew scraped paint out of cracks in the floor and walls that could have been contaminated by the diseases, said Donna Clark, the humane association's director.

"Parvo (canine parvovirus) or distemper would lay dormant in those cracks," Clark said. "You just can't clean it out."

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that is around 91 percent fatal if untreated.

However, the new paint job can't do anything to prevent diseases from coming into the shelter from unvaccinated animals, Clark added.

Just this week, an approximately 8-month-old mixed-breed puppy was brought into the shelter, and although it was vaccinated, it had already been exposed to parvo, Clark said.

Shelter employees did not know the dog was infected with the disease until Tuesday when they arrived to find the animal was ill.

The dog was taken downstairs to the veterinarian's office for treatment. Staff members used bleach to scrub the puppy's cage, and no dogs will be placed there for a few days, Clark said.

She said the dog was brought in by its owner and was not picked up by a humane officer. That means the person's vehicle was contaminated with parvo and could infect other dogs.

"That is one of the ways the disease is transferred," she said.

The painting project is nearly half finished, and Clark hopes for completion in the next four to five days.

The shelter was painted about seven years ago. That project cost the humane association about $40,000, Clark said.

The county's cost is about $15,000, Commission President Kent Carper said.

"We're very grateful the county (commission) has decided to help us out," Clark said.

The side of the shelter used to house the adoptable dogs, which are the dogs that have been in the shelter for five days or longer, was painted first.

Dogs in this portion of the shelter were moved to the other side while that area was painted, and vice versa.

Dogs must be kept in the shelter for five days or longer until they can be adopted, she said.

This method does not cause any confusion between which dogs can be adopted and those that cannot because note cards are placed on the cages informing the staff members of the legal adoption dates for the animals, she said.

However, the fact that the adoptable and non-adoptable dogs are being housed together means the shelter cannot accept canines dropped off by owners, Clark said.

Owners will be able to drop their dogs off at the shelter once the painting project is completed, she said.  

The painting project does not affect the cat area, which was renovated around the beginning of December.

Contact writer Paul Fallon at or 304-348-4817. Follow him at



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