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Worst canine outbreak animal welfare agency has faced

Cape Times logo Cape Times 2018-09-11 Okuhle Hlati

a person holding a dog: Photo: Tracey Adams / African News Agency (ANA) © Provided by Independent Media Photo: Tracey Adams / African News Agency (ANA) A Knysna animal welfare organisation has described the incurable canine distemper, which led to close to 300 dogs being euthanised, as the worst outbreak they had to deal with.

The virus had been picked up in one street in Hornlee with 10 cases of infection reported earlier this year.

It quickly spread in the five months from March to August, resulting in 271 dogs being put down.

“We thought we were winning the battle, but the numbers spiked again in July and August from the areas where it all started. 

"Since the announcement of the disease, our clinic was flooded the first few days with vaccination requests. Others sadly came too late,” said Knysna Animal Welfare Society (Kaws) spokesperson Retha Havenga.

The virus had also put tremendous financial strain on Kaws to get the disease under control and their kennels had to be under quarantine for a few days, said the organisation.

“In my time working at a welfare agency, this has been the worst outbreak we had to deal with.

“We have been working in animal welfare for nearly five years. Trying to get funds we initiated a sponsor-a-vac campaign, so the public could make a donation of R10 to help pay for the vaccinations, but it was less than 20 vaccinations paid for.

“When the owners can’t afford to pay we as the society do it free of charge and buy the vaccine ourselves. We don’t get the vaccines for free, so sadly we received no help from outside.” 

She said strict access and procedures had to be in place while the kennels were under quarantine to ensure that all animals entering the premises were disinfected.

“Our first priority was keeping our adoption animals and normal hospital patients safe. Animals visiting the clinic area with symptoms of the virus were admitted separately and did not have access to our general public areas.

“That way we could control the spread of the virus. Animals lovers should get their animals vaccinated, especially puppies at 6, 10 and 12 weeks, and then yearly, to make sure they do not get sick, especially with puppy season around the corner.

“Sadly, distemper will not only claim the lives of puppies, but that of adults too. Animals not vaccinated stand the risk to be infected.” 

The newest strain of the distemper virus causes aggressive symptoms, mainly neurological that closely resemble rabies symptoms. It spreads through the air and by direct or indirect (that is, utensils, bedding) contact with an infected animal.

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