Originally created 09/06/00

Columbia County closes shelter

Just hours after Richmond County's Animal Shelter partially reopened Tuesday, Columbia County shut its facility's doors after an adopted puppy died from an intestinal disease.

"My stomach is in about 10 knots," Columbia County's Animal Control Manager Linda Fulmer said.

"Columbia County Animal Control has worked diligently during the past six weeks to accommodate sheltering and adopting out well over a hundred animals from all over the CSRA," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director. "This has put the shelter at a much higher risk for contracting diseases due to animals being brought in from unknown areas."

She said Tuesday's closing marked the first time the shelter has ever been under quarantine.

In Richmond County, officials accepted the first strays after six weeks of quarantine and the euthanasia of 30 dogs last week.

"Everything is going the way we planned," said Animal Control Director Bonnie Bragdon, who took over the embattled shelter a week ago.

A Georgia Department of Agriculture inspector lifted the quarantine on the receiving section of the shelter. The adoption area of the Mack Lane facility will remain closed for two more weeks while officials check the 27 dogs there for signs of distemper.

"It's mostly a voluntary quarantine at this point," Dr. Bragdon said. "I'm sending tests off for distemper."

The partial opening of the shelter allows officials to take in strays. But, any dog given to the shelter by its owner will be immediately killed - there's just not enough space.

"If someone finds that objectionable, they need to do the legwork to get their pet adopted out," Dr. Bragdon said, adding owners could advertise their pets in the newspaper or use local humane societies until the adoption area opens.

Richmond County's shelter has been under quarantine since July 24, when a dog was found to have distemper, a disease that attacks the respiratory and central nervous systems. There's no cure for the airborne disease.

Since Dr. Bragdon started at the shelter, officials have renewed their efforts to reopen it. After the 30 dogs in the receiving building - the area affected by the distemper outbreak - were killed Friday, workers cleaned and disinfected each kennel three times.

Now that building has been split into two sections: receiving and quarantine. When a dog is brought in to the shelter, it will remain in the receiving area for three to seven days while officials wait for the owner to pick it up.

If no owner comes, the animal will move to the quarantine section for a week to ensure it is disease free. Then, it's off to the adoption area.

"By the time we open the adoption side, there should be a group of dogs ready to move over there," she said.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin said he was thrilled to give the OK to lift the ban Tuesday.

"As long as we've been dealing with this, I'm overjoyed," he said. "I think (Dr. Bragdon) is doing a marvelous job. I'm thoroughly convinced she's got everything under control. I think she's done the best with what she's got to do with."

He said lifting the quarantine should take the strain off local shelters, which have been inundated since the ban began.

Meanwhile, Ms. Fulmer met with state inspectors Tuesday about the parvo case.

According to Ms. Fulmer, a man took home a dog Aug. 27 from PetSmart, where Columbia County Humane Society officials had taken dogs from the county shelter to be adopted.

The next day, the puppy, which was about 3 months old, stopped eating and drinking - one of the early signs of the disease. On Thursday, the man took the dog to the veterinarian, but it was too late; parvo is curable if caught in the very early stages.

Ms. Fulmer said the quarantine is back-dated to Aug. 27 - the day the dog was adopted. Since then, there have been no new cases of parvo at the shelter. Workers clean the shelter's kennels every day and use Clorox in the facility once a week.

"If it was here, then it is gone," she said. "That's the good thing about cleaning the way we clean. As long as we are staying on top of it and cleaning it, I can't see it being a big problem. Every shelter in the state runs across it at one point or another."

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115.

What to do when your pet is missing:

Visit the county shelter and local humane societies daily.

Call local veterinary offices.

Post notices with your pet's picture and description.

Offer a reward for the return of your pet.

Notify neighbors, mail carriers and other local service personnel - they may have seen your pet.

Place an ad in newspapers and local sale papers.

Consider having your pet microchipped or tattooed.

Purchase identification tags to be placed on your pet's collar with your current address and phone number.

Most importantly, always keep a collar with rabies tag on your dog and cat. It is the law and it may be your pet's only way home.

Also, the Richmond County Animal Shelter will be requiring picture identification and mail received by the individual at his/her current address within the last two weeks to complete any transaction. No post office boxes allowed.

Source: Richmond County Animal Control Director Bonnie Bragdon


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