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Huntsville Animal Services issues urgent call to foster or adopt dogs

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville Animal Services is issuing an urgent call for people to help foster dogs. There is a respiratory illness spreading there, according to Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard, the director.

Many of the dogs are still healthy and doing well, but many are sick, said Dr. Sheppard.  They have a combination of a a virus and possibly a second bacterial infection.

"We've had three pets that died that were here in our adoption program,," she said. "But we had one pet this week that had to be euthanized and it was an adopted pet, it was a puppy."

Dr. Sheppard asks if you can adopt an animal, or temporarily foster a dog, please do.  Sheppard said if you have a dog at home, he or she is not at a serious risk if they have had their basic vaccinations. Dr. Sheppard said if your dog is over 5 months old and has had at least one vaccine, he or she may develop a cough or sneeze but it will be minor.  She explains further in this video:

She identified the illness as Adenovirus Parainfluenza.

"What we're doing is trying to get the building a day to rest, we're trying to adopt everything out, and trying to keep people from bringing the dogs in, trying to have everybody hold them a little bit longer," said Dr. Sheppard.

Dr. Sheppard said she believes most of the animals can be saved with temporary help from the public, to foster a dog long enough for the staff to get the building clean. However, if the dogs aren't all taken care of in a few days, the shelter will have to resort to other means. "The unfortunate reality is if we don't reduce the numbers of the dogs here, we're going to have to euthanize some of the dogs because our building has to rest, we have to get the virus out," said Dr. Sheppard.

The dogs that are sick have runny noses.  Many aren't interested in food, or may cough, Sheppard said.

If you can adopt or foster a pet, please visit the shelter:

Huntsville Animal Services
4950 Triana Boulevard
Huntsville, AL 35805
(256) 883-3782
Hours: 9am - 5pm weekdays, 9am-3pm Saturdays

Other options include donating money to board the animals at local veterinary offices, or taking one of the dogs to board at your vet.  Local rescue groups including A New Leash on Life are spreading the message on their social media pages as well.


  • Dan

    This sounds like the clinic is infested with kennel cough and they want people to take sick dogs home to endanger their own. Kennel cough IS contagious !

  • Jessica

    Dan, you are incorrect. The shelter is not lying, it is not kennel cough. Please check your facts before spouting incorrect (and damaging) information.

  • Dan

    Jessica please tell me where I said that the clinic is lying ??? My comment clearly states that it SOUNDS like kennel cough. Please completely read the comment before you put words in people’s mouths!

  • Jessica

    By saying “they want people to take sick dogs home to endanger their own” you’re implying the shelter is lying, because they clearly stated above that your dog is not at risk.

  • bamabrie

    This was preventable. Animals have been getting sick in the shelter for a long time, based on the admission of the director. It is unfortunate that this is now in crisis mode when steps could have been taken more than a year ago to stop this. I do hope people will step up to help. And then I hope we get some answers as to how this happens in a building managed by a veterinarian.

    • Cassidy

      This is so true.

      They outright lied when I adopted my dog. I was told he’d been vaccinated, I was charged for it, and when I took him to get neutered 3 days later he was so sick he had to have a shot in his throat. I called up there and spoke with the director – she admitted not only that they knew he was sick, but that they never had any intention of attending to his illness.

  • Dan

    Jessica this obviously proves you are one of the sheep that believes everything the media prints. I am all for saving dogs and have worked in a vet clinic as well as rescues for 8+ years. Kennel cough and respiratory viruses are contagious regardless of what they may tell you. Do some research and educate yourself please. Please take your uneducated and misconstrued comments else where. Huntsville Animal Services is a JOKE plain and simple!

  • Cassidy

    When I adopted my dog from Huntsville Animal Services a year and a half ago I found out very quickly that he had kennel cough. After speaking to the shelter, I found out that they in fact KNEW he was sick, did not treat him, and even went so far as to check on the contract I signed that they had adminstered the vaccination even though they hadn’t. It ended up costing me over $200 (on top of their adoption fees) for an illness that was completely preventable by the steps they CLAIM to take (and then charge you for in your adoption fee).

    At least they’re trying to do something about it now. But Ms. Shepperd was extremely rude and hateful in dealing with me and I’m shocked to see her admit that there is any type of problem.

  • taralynnehansen

    She identified the illness as Adenovirus Parainfluenza.

    Dr. Sheppard said she believes most of the animals can be saved with temporary help from the public, to foster a dog long enough for the staff to get the building clean.

    Ok so at any shelter … ome of the frist things we do is give a 5 way vaccine … it is less than 2.00 per shot.., it PREVENTS thia from happening.. these to viruses are VERY transmitiable …
    So if the shelter would spend the little to prevent… than they wouldnt have these issues…

  • Nuclear Mike

    So this call for help is for us to consider bringing home a potentially infected animal to transmit this virus to our pets and our whole neighbor of dogs?

  • bamabrie

    More than a year ago, the shelter was encouraged to vaccinate on intake, adopt strict cleaning protocols and separate animals by categories of isolation, quarantine and adoption ready. There are 5-way vaccines for dogs which cost about $2 or $3 to vaccinate on intake, as is done in other municipal shelters in our region. There are separate vaccines for puppies and for cats. All can be purchased in bulk from suppliers who provide discounts to municipal shelters. The question at this point becomes this: why were animals not getting preventive vaccinations on intake? We of course need to save the animals but then we must ask ourselves how this happened at all. So we can keep it from happening again and with our tax dollars.

  • Kim Leland

    How does this shelter get away with this? If a dog breeder in the local area pulled that sort of stunt — selling a sick puppy — they would be prosecuted for animal cruelty, fraud, and anything else that could be dreamed up. But the shelter does it, and everyone rushes in to donate money and take in their sick animals. They say the animals are vaccinated and charge accordingly, yet fail to vaccinate — that is, if proven, theft and fraud. Why would anyone support this shelter? If you want to see them clean up their obviously substandard and very dirty act, stop supporting them. They are probably tax-payer funded, and this is corruption. Huntsville people, you should be demanding some accountability, not supporting this game.

  • AWM

    ya know, if a BREEDER or a PET STORE did this, they woudl be dragged through the mud, reviled publicly and worse… but apparently it’s just fine for the Shelter Pet Store to sell sick animals… and potentially endanger the pets already in the home…

    this is not a new scenario, and it will continue an dincrease as long as responsible, inspected dog breeders and sellers are shut down and “rescued” street dogs and shelter dogs become the ONLY legal source of pets…

    • JA

      Yes, I do expect a business operating on producing more animals to spend a few dollars to vaccinate them. I also expect a shelter to, but understand they’re often operating on limited funding and space cleaning up messes caused largely by overbreeding and bad owners.

      • taralynnehansen

        No…. shelters and rescues often bring dogs and pups in from other areas and countries..
        This shelter failed thier job. And to blame others is childish… the shelter choose to not use basic cleaning and vaccations .. the only vaccine that is a lower standed is the solject brand. But the rest can be bought from anywhere and all the manufactors have programs for lower cost for shelters.. while a breeder or a pet store and a vet clinic pay higher prices (usally 2.30 to 5 .oo per dose ) vs a shelter who can pay 2.00 to 3.00 ….
        This is a fail and the shelter asking other to care for sick dogs and saying that other dogs arenot at risk makes it worse

  • bamabrie

    The cost to vaccinate on intake is nominal – around $2 to $3. As Maddie’s Fund states, “Shelters that only vaccinate some animals, or none, or that fail to vaccinate prior to or at the instant of intake are not just increasing the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, they’re guaranteeing them.” This is made all the more tragic since it could have been prevented. The best we can do now is hope people will adopt and foster and that this will lead to systemic change. The shelter building is not that old and any building can be kept clean and well maintained for the sake of the animals housed there. As people rally to save animals perhaps they will also rally to seek better use of their tax dollars in the future.

  • Dan

    I do not know about this specific shelter, but have noticed in other shelters I have worked in that they will buy bulk from Tractor Supply Company or other stores where you can purchase vaccinations instead of buying from a reputable source such as a vet office because the generic vaccinations are cheaper. The problem here is that the vaccinations you buy in these stores are often times not up to standards and do not even work majority of the time.

  • Penny

    How can we as a community get our animal control center cleaned up with better conditions for the animals and of course more adoptions going out? I looked on the animal services website, it is not easy to find pictures of all the animals for adoption. They REALLY should fix that. PLEASE everyone interested in helping should go to the site and look at the dogs & cats for adoption. I am not sure how often they update the photos or if more animals are available.
    We should all pitch in and try and get our Huntsville Animal Services operating better for our community and eventually become a no kill shelter. That is something we could all be proud of for sure. Lets be creative and brainstorm some ideas to solve this animal control issue here in Huntsville. It is clear more needs to be done.

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