Franklin Co. Dog Shelter outlines plan to fight respiratory disease outbreak


The Franklin County Dog Shelter is working to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases including distemper.

Adoptions are on hold and every dog is being assessed after the shelter put down 52 dogs over the weekend.

A dog was put down August 31 for distemper. The shelter didn’t stop adoptions until September 8.

Brittany Good just adopted a dog from the shelter the day before adoptions were stopped.

“I got extremely nervous that he would get sick and I wouldn’t know what to do,” Good said.

She says no one at the shelter let her know.

“It took us a little while to sort through thinking ‘is this something simple or is this complex?’” shelter director Don Winstel said.

Rescuers concerned if Franklin Co. Dog Shelter distemper has spread into community

The shelter is not clear on when test results came back confirming the dog had distemper. Over the weekend, 52 dogs were euthanized over the fear of the virus.

“It is an extremely serious problem because it is highly contagious and highly deadly,” Rascal Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Michelle Gonzalez said.

Dr. Gonzalez says it starts as a respiratory issue and can be confused with other illnesses but then it affects the neurological system.

“One of the problems with distemper is that they can potentially shed up to 60 to 90 days,” Dr. Gonzalez said.


Franklin County Dog Shelter Policy for Infectious Diseases

A team of experts from the Franklin County Dog Shelter, Capital Area Humane Society, and the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine will examine every dog in the shelter.

The vets will designate every animal as either exposed or unexposed based on their time in the shelter and proximity to dogs potentially infected with distemper based on clinical signs.

For those considered exposed, the vets will further classify each dog as low risk, moderate risk, or high risk based on a combination of factors which includes but is not limited to: type and severity of clinical signs, vaccination history, age, and other medical or behavioral factors that would make an extended quarantine period inhumane for the dog

Quarantine for exposed dogs is typically 4 to 6 weeks and involves restrictions for contact with people and other dogs that make cage confinement a much bigger concern compared dogs who can benefit from the activities and enrichments provided during non-quarantine conditions.

Classification of clinical signs of respiratory disease:

-Mild = slight serous (clear)nasal discharge, no sneeze, no cough

-Moderate=serous nasal discharge, +/- sneeze, no cough

-Severe=mucopurulent or cloudy nasal discharge, or cough, or mucoid ocular discharge, +/- sneeze

Unexposed dogs – This group of dogs will be held in separate wards from those that are exposed and additional steps will be taken to prevent cross contamination. They can be made ready for adoption.


-Dogs that, due to lack of proximity, were not considered exposed to distemper

Exposed dogs high risk – This group of dogs should be euthanized.


-those with moderate or severe signs of respiratory disease

-those <6 months regardless of vaccination status

-those with 1 vaccine and mild signs

-those with two vaccines and mild to moderate signs

-those who would suffer from an extended quarantine period due to pre-existing medical or behavioral conditions.

Exposed dogs moderate risk – This group of dogs should be quarantined for 4 to 6 weeks provided they are otherwise deemed adoptable.


-those with 2 vaccines and mild to moderate signs of respiratory disease

-those with 1 vaccine that are > 1 year of age with mild signs of respiratory disease

Exposed dogs low risk – This group of dogs should receive further risk assessment to determine whether they should be quarantined or made ready for rescue/transfer out


-those >6 years who were s/n at the time of intake with mild signs of respiratory disease

-those >1 year who were surrendered with documentation of vaccination with mild signs of respiratory disease

-those with 2 vaccinations and mild signs of respiratory disease

Dogs can be treated but then continue to spread the virus so treatment includes weeks of quarantine. In shelters, with hundreds of dogs, that's not always feasible.

Winstel said the shelter has created separate areas within the building: one is a quarantine area for dogs they are monitoring and the other for normal shelter operation.

The shelter is evaluating all of the dogs right now and putting them in different risk categories, deciding if they should be euthanized or quarantined.