Harlan County Animal Shelter back to normal after distemper outbreak

HARLAN, Ky (WYMT) -What a difference a year makes! Back in the summer of 2013, we took you to the Harlan County Animal Shelter, where staff had to put down almost 100 dogs following a distemper outbreak.

While they were able to save around 60 dogs, Shelter Manager Duncan Caldwell said the experience was still hard on his staff.

However, within a year, they have refilled all their once-empty kennels with healthy dogs.

"It is constant. We are receiving 25 to 30 calls a day on stray animals, abandoned animals, neglected animals," said Caldwell.

The trouble started for the Harlan County Animal Shelter when someone dropped off a diseased raccoon outside their door last year. Staff now have posted a sign that reads "we do not accept wildlife" on the fence entering the shelter.

"Since then we got everybody out of the building, sanitized it, kept it closed for a couple weeks, sanitized and got right back into the swing of things," said Caldwell.

For long-time volunteer Jennifer Williams, having to put down so many dogs was heartbreaking.

"It was very emotional and I really had questions of how we were going to pull through but we were able to," said Williams.

She said now their past helps inspire their future. Williams keeps a collage of pictures on the wall behind her desk. They represent just some of the animals she has helped save over her years as a volunteer.

"We have not forgotten the ones that we lost during this. I still have their names in the back of my head but we just try to do it in memory of them," said Williams.

Caldwell said he hopes the shelter will never have to go through an ordeal like that again.

"Euthanasia is a hard thing to deal with for me personally, along with my staff. It is a terrible thing," said Caldwell.

Folks with the shelter tell WYMT the best thing you can do to help them out is have your pets spayed or neutered. That will keep the stray population down.


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