Dog shelter puts euthanizations on hold, all dogs to be tested for distemper

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After a week in which the Franklin County Dog Shelter euthanized 84 dogs, Friday county officials announced those euthanizations were being put on hold until every dog in the shelter can be tested for distemper.

As a result of that, rescue groups say they are dropping their legal fight against the shelter.

There are currently 174 dogs in the shelter, 111 of them in isolation because of exposure to distemper.

Friday shelter officials said thanks to some outside help, all of those dogs will be tested.

Of the 84 dogs put down, only three actually tested positive for distemper, but all had been exposed.

Timeline: Franklin County Dog Shelter distemper outbreak

"You had to identify, given our capacity to care for dogs that are sick, we just had to make those decisions a little more quickly than we otherwise might have,” Franklin County Deputy Administrator Erik Janas said. “But they were not euthanized for no reason at all. They were euthanized because they had significant illness or behavioral issues."

Local animal rescue groups, disturbed that dogs were being put down without being tested, filed a motion in Franklin County Court Thursday.

They were asking for a restraining order to block any more euthanizations. Friday they got their wish, but not through the court.

"We're going to test every dog at the shelter, including those in quarantine area and those that have been coming in through intake," Janas said.

He said the testing started Thursday night, made possible by help from the University of Wisconsin.

"We strongly believe that using these tests and making quick decisions is our best chance of saving as many dogs as we can," Janas said. “While we're going through this testing process, this weekend and waiting for those test results, we don't intend to euthanize any dogs as a result of this testing process."

He said test results could be back early next week.

"And those animals we feel are not contagious and are immune to distemper can be released to rescue then without the need for quarantine,” Dr. Jeanette Quin of the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine said. “Any dogs we feel are susceptible to distemper, have been exposed, they would still need to be quarantined."

Friday afternoon, the attorney for the rescue groups told 10TV they were essentially withdrawing their request for the restraining order against the shelter.

The shelter's hold on euthanizations is not absolute. If vet staff suspect that a dog is actively infected with distemper and at risk of infecting other dogs that dog could still be put down.

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