Shelter to close, animals euthanized

About 200 cats and dogs living in the Catawba County Animal Shelter will be euthanized following the outbreak of a mysterious illness.

The facility closed Wednesday for extensive sanitization in an attempt to control the deadly illness and stop it from spreading. Sanitation is expected to last until Sept. 7.

“We don’t know what the illness is,” said Jay Blatche, Catawba County Animal Services manager. “We don’t even know it’s a virus at this point.”
All shelter animals are believed to be exposed to the illness, and for safety precautions, must be euthanized.

“The shelter is one big room,” Blatche said. “It’s not like we have an isolation wing. All of our animals are in one big open space. If you were in a room of 100 people with the plague, you’d assume you were exposed.”

The illness was first discovered several weeks ago when shelter animals exhibited symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting and high fever, of an upper-respiratory illness.

“We’ve been fighting this thing for about a month now,” Blatche said. “We’ve got a lot of sick animals here.”

Shelter officials conducted tests to determine the type of illness present in the facility, but the tests were inconclusive. Animal virus labs at Cornell University and Oklahoma State University also conducted tests to determine the illness type, but they were also unsuccessful.
Because the illness is unknown, officials don’t know how to treat exposed animals or how to contain the virus.

It does not appear, however, that the illness can be transferred to humans.