Laurel County Animal Shelter temporarily closed due to distemper exposure

May 10—The Laurel County Animal Shelter is just over halfway through a four-week shutdown due to distemper exposure.

Shelter officials made the announcement on April 25 via social media that they cannot take in new animals nor adopt out those that were already there and are now in quarantine as the facility works with state and local veterinarians to solve the issue.

Shelter staff are still conducting pickups, with the animals going to the Knox-Whitley Humane Association for the time being. Call (606) 864-6319 for assistance.

Distemper is a highly contagious virus that affects the respiratory and nervous systems of many mammals (though not people). The virus can begin in the mucous membranes — causing symptoms of fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, and other symptoms. This virus can make its way to the animal's brain and be fatal to young, weak animals.

The disease is 99 percent preventable by vaccination, according to Skylin Arnett, a veterinarian technician with Cumberland Valley Veterinary Services.

"Distemper is carried by wild animals like raccoons so especially if you have dogs that roam out in the woods or outside, they need to be vaccinated for distemper. All they have to do is come in contact with an infected animal," Arnett said. "The disease is airborne and extremely contagious to animals. They are going to bring it back to every animal around them if they are not vaccinated. Your dog will become ill and possibly die."

All the dogs in Laurel County custody are being cared for as personnel keep a close eye out for signs that any animals have the disease and work to deep clean the facility and their vehicles.

"The Laurel shelter has been dealt a really horrible card, especially how deep the need is in our community for a shelter," Arnett said. "They are overworked and overrun just like Knox-Whitley is, unfortunately. They are doing the best they can to make sure no further exposure can happen and hopefully if they get through quarantine, they will begin helping the community again in a few weeks."

Messages to the shelter had not been returned at press time.