Agriculture Commission-er Gus R. Douglass is calling on pet owners to contact their veterinarians to make sure vaccinations are up-to-date on all their animals after news that the Kanawha County animal shelter will close its doors for three weeks to decontaminate the premises.
Canine distemper and feline panleukopenia were discovered in the Kanawha shelter. Neither disease affects humans, although both can be fatal to their respective hosts.
"Pet vaccinations protect not only your animals, but the animals around them as well. With vaccination, these diseases are totally preventable," said Commissioner Douglass. "While it's impossible to totally control the situation in a shelter, the more animals that are vaccinated, the lower the chance for the type of situation we're now seeing in Kanawha County."
West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) State Veterinarian Dr. Jewell Plumley said there was a distemper outbreak at the Cabell County shelter over the summer and at the Mercer County shelter in the spring. In September, the Preston County Animal Shelter was shut down for more than a week after several puppies came there infected with parvovirus. All other shelter dogs were vaccinated.
State law requires that dogs and cats be vaccinated against rabies every three years. Although it's not in the state code, Dr. Plumley also recommends "core" vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, parainfluenza, and coronavirus.
"These are just my blanket recommendations. People should have their pets examined by a private veterinarian who can then make the best vaccination recommendations," said Dr. Plumley.
WVDA does not license veterinarians or regulate shelters, but Dr. Plumley said she is offering her expertise to help Kanawha County deal with the current issue and avoid situations such as this in the future.
"I gave them information on the disease, biosecurity measures they can take, and cleaning and disinfecting procedures they should follow. I also suggested some equipment they could purchase that would allow them to quickly test incoming animals for disease and the construction of an isolation ward that allows incoming animals to be segregated to make sure they don't develop symptoms of any disease before they are exposed to the general population," said Dr. Plumley.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture protects plant, animal, and human health through a variety of scientific, regulatory, and consumer protection programs, as mandated by state law. The Commissioner of Agriculture is one of six statewide elected officials in West Virginia. For more information, visit www.wvagriculture.org.