LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Animal Services is taking emergency steps after another outbreak of sick animals at its facility. The problem is bad enough that late Friday LMAS announced it's not going to take in any more animals except for those facing emergency situations. The policy is effective immediately and will remain in place indefinitely.
LMAS Director Justin Scally says since June, there have been ten confirmed cases of distemper and more than 20 upper respiratory cases at the Manslick facility. Now LMAS is making some big changes to reduce the risk of spreading these illnesses.
"We do know that there have been cases and we do know that there have been severe upper respiratory cases and therefore we felt it necessary to take this next step," said Scally.
The move was prompted by an outbreak of upper respiratory illness in its animals including a number of dogs that were released to rescue groups and adopted out to local families. At least one dog housed at LMAS died less than two weeks after a local family adopted it.
Less than three months ago, another dog housed at LMAS died from distemper, a form of upper respiratory illness. That prompted LMAS to temporarily suspend some services at that time.
Scally says they are in the process of setting up a separate intake facility at 3516 Newburg Road. There they will be able to isolate and review animals once they come in.
"Once we have the blood work and titers done we can then rearrange the animals based on their immunity levels to get spay and neuters done for adoption and things of that nature," said Scally.
Scally, who has been on the job about a month, called in experts from the University of California-Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, which Scally calls "an industry leader worldwide." Veterinarians from Koret Shelter consulted on the latest outbreak and how to handle it.
"Disease was in the shelter when this new team arrived," Scally said, adding his team started making changes immediately. "And so what we have to do is make the changes occur so that we don't run into this type of issue in the future."
The decision to suspend intakes of animals was part of the consultant's recommendations. Scally said he implemented changes to cleaning techniques at LMAS shortly after he arrived, including increased scrubbing of cages and steps to prevent cross contamination.
But Scally said it was not enough to totally eliminate the problem, in large part he says because the facility itself is outdated.
Some animal groups were worried when they first heard of this new plan. "My initial reaction was are they going to kill all the pets," said Jessica Reid, President and Co-founder of No Kill Louisville.
But Scally says no. "There is no mass euthanasia of animals, what we are doing is quarantining the facility."
Reid says she was pleased to hear that, but still has her concerns. "What happens once they test all these animals and that's to be determined," said Reid. "Well that to be determined scares me a little bit. I want it to still be transparent and if he continues down that path where he tells us what's happening and how we can help, that's what I want to happen."
LMAS is offering two free vaccination clinics next month to try attack the problem in the community because Scally says many of these animals come to them sick. They will be held Saturday, October 1 from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon at the Newburg Community Center, 4810 Exeter Avenue and Saturday, October 8 from 9 a.m. to Noon at the Portland Community Center, 640 North 27th Street.
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