Harlan County Animal Shelter forced to euthanize dogs after outbreak

HARLAN, Ky (WYMT) - The Harlan County Animal Shelter will start accepting animals again soon.

A distemper outbreak forced the shelter to shut its doors and put down dozens of dogs.

But some are getting a second chance at life.

Jennifer Williams is the shelter liaison and worked late into the night finding homes for more than 10 dogs that were ruled safe for adoption.

"If we are able to potentially save a lot of lives, it is going to be uplifting for everything we do in the future," said Williams.

In total, she said she saved more than a dozen dogs.

"All the dogs that were on the Facebook post have been confirmed for rescue," said Williams.

But the same cannot be said for all of them.

Shelter director Duncan Caldwell said they were hit hard by this illness.

"To this point we have approximately euthanized 65 dogs," said Caldwell.

Caldwell said all the dogs that are unsafe to be adopted will have to be put down because they are still infected after a sick raccoon was dropped at their front door weeks ago.

"Our goal here is to provide a service for this county and to make sure that we make every possible effort to either place them in homes or eventually euthanize," said Caldwell.

He added that this year they have euthanized more dogs than ever before and that normally they have to put very few down.

"We are listed as high kill but we're under 10 percent euthanasia rate," said Caldwell.

Williams said this ordeal has been heartbreaking.

"With a simple breath, it was kind of taken away so a lot of hard work goes into this so when something like this happens, it is really difficult to get over," said Williams.

Once all the dogs are either rescued or put down, the building will be sanitized and then re-opened.

Caldwell said they will start cleaning on Monday, which should take about three days.

He said he hopes to accept animals again by late next week.


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