Animal experts join HOPE Program to help contain distemper outbreak


Local animal experts say they believe the distemper outbreak will get worse before it gets better.

Several veterinary hospitals across central Ohio are now taking extra precautions when it comes to caring for dogs.

The Central Ohio Pit Savers Group (COPS) started the H.O.P.E. Program, for helping others prevent euthanasia. The local organization is partnering with the Rascal Animal Hospital to offer low cost or free vaccines to the public.

The program was created after the Franklin County Dog Shelter announced it euthanized 60 dogs in the distemper outbreak at the facility.

Other local rescue and animal advocacy groups are now working on a plan to save the rest of the dogs currently at the shelter. In the meantime, veterinary clinics and animal hospitals are using caution when treating dogs.

"We are welcoming them to come in and get examined and get tested. However we don't want to bring dogs into the lobby and then potentially expose other animals so we want to do it as safe as possible,” Dr. Michelle Gonzalez said.

Dr. Gonzalez owns the Rascal Animal Hospital. She and her staff are taking extra precautions for fear of distemper to spread, though Dr. Gonzalez says it’s likely.

"I think we are going to see a lot more outbreaks and that's what we're hoping to slow down and prevent,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

Dr. Gonzalez says animals with distemper probably have a 50/50 chance of survival, but its better if a dog has been vaccinated.

"What we are doing is trying to offer people an affordable way to test it,” Dr. Gonzalez said.

That’s why the Rascal Animal Hospital is partnering with Central Ohio Pit Savers. The two organizations will offer cheaper vaccinations and testing by mobile truck to targeted area where their service is needed most.

Those outraged over the euthanization of 60 dogs at the Franklin County Dog Shelter have been protesting for days. On Tuesday, a large group rallied around the County Commissioners building, hoping their voice would be heard on the 17th floor.

Protestors demanded answers as to why the shelter allowed dogs to be adopted, even after test results confirmed one animal had distemper.

“There are a lot of considerations, there are a lot of hard decisions that have to be made,” Steffen Baldwin said.

Some facilities like Beechwold Veterinary Hospital have posted concerns too, in efforts to help isolate the sickness and help keep pets alive.

The Franklin County Dog Shelter said Tuesday it needed help from rescue groups to take, what they call, “low-risk” dogs from the shelter. The shelter also said it’s not notifying those who recently adopted of the distemper, but they are providing care at no cost to the people concerned.