PHOENIX — Officials say an ongoing illness outbreak at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control's east shelter has led them to euthanize more than a dozen dogs.
The shelter near the Loop 101 and Rio Salado Parkway has been placed under quarantine due to several cases of distemper and other dogs showing signs of upper respiratory infections.
On Friday the shelter said eight cases of distemper had been confirmed. Nineteen dogs have been euthanized, either because of distemper or serious signs of other illness.
Distemper is a highly contagious virus that infects a dog's respiratory and nervous systems. Its initial signs mirror a lot of other illnesses, so it's hard for medical staff to detect and counter.
"[The] first signs that are shown, it looks absolutely the same as the upper respiratory disease that dogs typically come down with in the shelter that isn't distemper virus," said Dr. Nancy Mayer, chief of medicine at the shelter. "So there's no way in the early stages of the disease to know [if] it is distemper or not."
Distemper is primarily treated through vaccination, making dogs too young to receive the immunization the most at risk.
The diseases have also led shelter administrators to scale back some operations at its west shelter, including suspending owner surrenders through June 11 and temporarily ending dog-to-dog meet and greets between shelter dogs and dogs already owned by a potential adoptive family.