Overcrowded animal shelters cause concern for spread of illness

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas — Cynthia Ladony has always been an animal lover.

"That's an understatement," Ladony said with a smile. "I have 11 chickens, and I love them all to death."

Earlier this month, when the Montgomery County Animal Shelter made a public plea to help with overcrowding, it seemed to be the right fit for the Dickinson resident. Ladony and her mom had been in the market for a dog, so the free adoptions offered by the shelter made sense.

Just three days after bringing the puppy home though, the puppy became sick with what Ladony thinks was distemper.

"She started puking and vomiting and diarrhea," Ladony said.

Distemper is spread through the air, and the virus attacks multiple body systems in a dog.

Ladony brought the dog back to the shelter, but veterinarians had to put down the animal. At the same time, Ladony brought her two other dogs in to be vaccinated. Just a day later, her 11-year-old dog, Sergeant, started coughing.

"We're hoping he just had a bad reaction to the shot," Ladony said. "To see him going through this, I cry every day."

Montgomery County Animal Shelter is operating near capacity and can't guarantee the health of any animal. It's especially difficult as 2018 has seen a high occurrence of respiratory illness.

"We try our absolute best, and we would never ever send a dog out we suspected had the virus," said Melia Washington, an associate veterinarian at the shelter.

Every dog that goes through intake at MCAS receives a variety of vaccinations, including one for distemper. Like many shelters, MCAS sends adopters home with packets of information for taking care of pets. In the information packet, new pet owners are advised to keep the new animal separate from other animals in and out of their home for at least three weeks. It's also recommended that any current pets are up to date on vaccinations.

"We really try to stress the importance of that process and the importance of bolstering their vaccines so they can be as protected as possible," Washington said. "We provide sick clinic hours and 10 days after adoption to come back for medical care at no cost, so we can again educate them and focus on any symptoms they might have."

MCAS does not euthanize because of space restrictions. The shelter is currently still offering free dog adoptions. For more information, click here.