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Foster families desperately needed after distemper outbreak at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control shelter

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control dogs
Posted at 3:02 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-07 14:30:39-04

PHOENIX — It is a dire situation at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control shelter where several buildings are locked down after an outbreak of distemper.

One animal advocate, who requested anonymity, described it as the "perfect storm" with the pandemic, Fourth of July holiday, and an already overcrowded shelter that is short on manpower.

Distemper is a virus that causes neurological seizures in animals. It is one of the most serious diseases your pet can get, but also one of the most preventable as there is a vaccine for it.

Shelter spokeswoman Monica Gery says the county has locked down three and a half kennel buildings at the West shelter. Only kennel staff are allowed in those areas to clean and feed the animals.

Those going in have to wear special protective gear before entering the area. There are about 100 dogs at the shelter currently under quarantine.

Animal advocates worry about the lack of socialization and human contact the dogs in quarantine were experiencing.

"It will bring depression on. The dogs are going to suffer from depression because they're not going to be able to be in close contact with people," said Heather Pendleton, with the Follow Your Heart animal rescue.

Gery said three dogs had been put to sleep since the outbreak due to "severe clinical symptoms."

For many animal advocates, the outbreak was a tragic reminder of a similar situation in 2019 when more than 40 dogs had to be euthanized after a distemper outbreak at the shelter.

Gery said the county was testing dozens of other dogs for Distemper, and the costs were adding up.

Follow Your Heart, along with the East Side Elves and One Love Pit Bull Foundation have donated thousands of dollars to the county shelter to help pay for these tests.

All three non-profit animal rescues are currently holding fundraisers for the county shelter on their social media pages.

The donations will also be used to provide enrichment toys such as bully sticks, pork chomps, and blankets for animals inside the Maricopa County shelter.

Lindsey Blazevich, Founder and President of the One Love Pit Bull Foundation, is also working closely with the shelter to take healthy dogs out of the environment.

Blazevich said they have been able to remove two dogs on Tuesday. The dogs will be quarantined with a local veterinarian until they were deemed healthy to place into foster homes.

The shelter is currently looking for fosters as they try to get healthy dogs out of the buildings to make room for sick animals.

Gery said they prefer fosters with no other animals at home but would consider those with healthy pets on a case-by-case basis.

To donate to the shelter, go to Donate to MC Animal Care & Control | Maricopa County, AZ.

The shelter has about 500 dogs right now, with about 87 that came in as "lost dogs" during the Fourth of July weekend. Six dogs have been put down so far.

To help control overcrowding, county officials have been asking people to hold on to the lost dogs they have found, if possible, and submit pictures of them to the shelter.

If you have lost or found a pet in Maricopa county go to Lost / Found Pet | Maricopa County, AZ.