Quarantine is an unfortunately common part of life for my local shelter. Ever since I became involved there have been quarantines, some brief and some long. During quarantines, animal shelters separate populations of dogs by creating physical barriers and making sure that staff and volunteers don’t spread disease between populations. Sometimes the quarantine is created at the shelter, while other times dogs are taken offsite. In extreme circumstances or when resources are very limited, dogs may be euthanized during quarantines. 

Why are quarantines necessary?

Despite the availability of low-cost vaccinations and preventatives, many dogs in the Southen United States aren’t vaccinated. They interact freely with wildlife, which causes the disease to spread even more easily. When dogs come into the shelter, they may not show signs of disease. Some viruses, like Distemper, are excellent at hiding. Dogs are vaccinated, but the vaccine doesn’t take against an infected dog. 

Why does disease spread so easily in animal shelers?

Disease is spread rapidly among dogs in animal shelters. Why? There are a few important causes.

  • Close contact between dogs in kennels and in playpens 
  • Dogs who are stressed due to overpopulation and lack of enrichment
  • Long vaccination effectiveness periods. Some vaccines take up to a month to be effective, leaving dogs vulnerable
  • High disease rate in incoming animals

Here was my experience with a recent Distemper Quarantine

Here are some of the dogs currently at Alachua County Animal Services. They are in crates so they won’t be exposed to any Distemper still in the general population. Staff walks them as much as possible, but we are desperate for volunteers to help.

With Alachua County Animal Services still shut down for a Distemper quarantine and more dogs coming in every day, dogs are housed in crates separate from dogs that have been exposed to Distemper. Staff and volunteers walk dogs as frequently as possible and struggle to keep the rooms cool with fans and window AC units, while the heat skyrockets into record-breaking temperatures.

Dogs are in crates so they won’t be exposed to any Distemper still in the general population. Staff walks them as much as possible, but we are desperate for volunteers to help.

Rescues are struggling to find fosters quickly enough to get dogs out before euthanasia becomes necessary. Over 20 were just saved, but there are so many more still coming in.

It can be tempting to look away when things seem so hopeless, but all you have to do is look at the dogs to see how much hope there is. Each one of them is filled with enthusiasm for life and deserves a chance.

What can you do to help during a quarantine?

Can’t adopt? There is so much more you can do. Here are just a few options:

  • Foster. Foster homes are the backbone of animal rescue. Most private rescues have no facility or very limited space in their facility. Every foster home that opens up is a dog saved. Contact me or one of the many local rescues in the area like the Humane Society to get started.
  • Support fosters. Can’t foster? Help someone who can. You can take dogs for walks, babysit for weekend vacations, or donate supplies. 
  • Volunteer. Dogs always need to be walked, played with, trained, and just loved on. Every minute a dog spends with you is a minute out of their cage and away from the anxiety and boredom of shelter life. There are dogs of every shape, size, and energy level. Staff can match you with a dog that is right for you. Please call or visit Alachua County Animal Services to get started.
  • Donate. A chew can be the difference between an anxious hour and an hour spent doing something enjoyable. Frozen treats like carrots frozen in ice cubes are a huge relief on hot days. Just drop your donations off at the front desk. 

Sometimes sick populations need to be walked or played with, but healthy populations always need walking and interaction. If your local shelter is under quarantine, ask what you can do to help. 

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