MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS5) – The quarantine at the East Maricopa County Animal Shelter has been extended once again, this time until July 1.
The Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) has had to euthanize 49 dogs since June 3, including 33 dogs at the East shelter that tested positive for distemper or shown severe symptoms.
The shelter is working to adopt out any dogs not showing symptoms of the virus, and working on fosters for the dogs that are treatable and would do better in a quieter environment.
Those dogs that are adoptable will be adopted out for license fee only.
"It breaks my heart to see so many dogs that never get a forever home," said one volunteer at the East Shelter.
He wanted to remain anonymous so he'd be allowed to continue to volunteer at the shelter, but says he sees a direct connection between conditions at the shelter and the spread of disease.
"It's trying to do the impossible with very little. The shelter, because of its age, is really falling apart inside. The conditions are very dirty inside the shelter. The cement is cracked, the rebar is coming through," he said.
And MCACC officials say the East Shelter is too crowded.
"The kennel spaces are tighter because they're smaller. The dogs are closer together in their kennels. They face each other closer than they do in the West Shelter," said spokesman Jose Santiago. "All of those could be breeding ground for this virus that's airborne."
Though there is some good news. A new shelter on the east side is in the works. Both volunteers and animal shelter staff hope that this outbreak will highlight the need for a quick completion of that facility.
In the meantime, veterinarians are recommending everyone makes sure their pets are up to date on their shots to prevent the spread of distemper or parvo virus.
"These are diseases that are very much preventable," said Josh Sosnow, a veterinarian with North Scottsdale Animal Hospital. "If you're vaccinated, if you have good immunity, you can be exposed and you may get a mild illness, but it will be significantly less than what you'd experience if you didn't have vaccinations on board."
Sosnow says he doesn't blame the County for the outbreak. He says the County has limited resources, and the challenge of accepting animals that have been out on the streets makes things difficult.
Still, the quarantine is straining MCACC's West Shelter. That shelter is quickly running out of room, working double-duty for the county.
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