Distemper outbreak cripples Harris County Animal Shelter

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The Harris County Animal Shelter is making an urgent plea tonight. If you're able to adopt a healthy dog, please do so.

The Harris County Animal Shelter is making an urgent plea tonight. If you're able to adopt a healthy dog, please do so.

The facility is battling a distemper outbreak, and they are working to make sure no other dogs come down with the illness.

Eyewitness News has learned 17 dogs have tested positive for the viral illness. Three more dogs are suspected of having the virus. Six dogs either passed away or had to be put down because of their symptoms.

Dr. Michael White serves as the Director of Veterinary in Harris County's Public Health division. White told ABC13 they believe they have to rid the shelter of any active cases.

"Distemper is the word you don't want to hear in a shelter. It's a very serious disease. It can look like any other disease," said Dr. White. "The ideal thing would be you just remove all the dogs from the facility. You clean everything and you start fresh. That's not possible for us."

Rescue groups are now helping the shelter house animals in climate controlled trailers outside. Every new dog brought in to the shelter is given the distemper vaccine. It takes at least three days for the animal to build up enough immunity so they won't fall ill.

Testing dogs can cost thousands. The shelter is also in need of more space outside. If you can help, please do so.

You can learn more about the Harris County Animal Shelter by visiting countypets.org.

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