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Longview shelter reopens today amid vaccination allegations

By Jimmy Isaac jisaac@news-journal.com
Dec. 26, 2011 at 10 p.m.


The Humane Society of Northeast Texas is expected to open its doors today, more than a week after closing the Enterprise Street facility due to a viral outbreak.

On Monday, a California animal rescuer who worked with the Longview shelter released emails to the News-Journal suggesting the shelter discontinued vaccinations that might have prevented the outbreak. Humane Society of Northeast Texas Board President Susan Mazarakes-Gill said the allegation is untrue.

Since 1972, the shelter has operated as a nonprofit group on funds from contracts with Longview, Gregg County and several other local governments, along with public donations and fees for adoptions and other services. Longview City Council members and Gregg County commissioners this fall authorized one-year deals with the Humane Society for animal sheltering services through Sept. 30.

Lisa Satchwell, director of California nonprofit K-911 Rescue Inc., said her rescue partner was given two dead puppies from Longview during a recent rescue transport. Another puppy from Longview died at a veterinarian's office two days later, and a fourth puppy "who seemed healthy when he left Longview" has been diagnosed with parvovirus and pneumonia, leaving the rescuer with a $1,500 vet bill, Satchwell said.

According to emails provided by Satchwell, when she contacted a coordinator at the Longview animal shelter, she learned vaccinations ended around the Thanksgiving holiday.

No one answered the door at the shelter or returned phone calls Monday. Executive Director Christine Kerr has said in past interviews that, though the shelter is closed Mondays, staffers are usually there to clean the facility in preparation for opening Tuesdays.

Mazarakes-Gill said staffers moved surviving animals from a temporary shelter at Maude Cobb Activity Complex on Thursday, cleaned the temporary shelter Friday, and, with a skeleton crew, prepared the Enterprise Street shelter over the weekend for opening today.

On Dec. 16, Kerr announced the shelter had closed, after an outbreak of canine distemper was discovered. In response, the Humane Society euthanized 154 dogs and said the shelter would remain closed until today.

Canine distemper is a contagious, incurable, often fatal viral infection that affects a dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. A basic vaccine called a distemper shot vaccinates against distemper, parvovirus and some kennel cough agents.

According to Facebook messages between Satchwell and Humane Society of Northeast Texas Rescue Coordinator Sheri Lipina, the shelter stopped giving shots as recently as Dec. 11. Lipina said animals that had been vaccinated for parvovirus were testing positive for the disease because of the vaccine and not for actual parvo.

"That's not good, but vaccinating is worse," Satchwell told Lipina, according to the messages. "You just had parvo and you have a bunch of under-a-year pups that have no vaccs - that is really not good."

Satchwell said the issue arose after the shelter euthanized a mother dog whose litter of puppies tested positive for parvo. Satchwell wanted to rescue the mother, because dogs more than one year old seldom get parvo, and "That's when I found out that they weren't vaccinating ... And there is a perfect reason why they should vaccinate, if they're killing a dog because she didn't have her vaccinations."

When Kerr announced the shelter's closing Dec. 17, she asked residents "to please vaccinate your animals ... It is important to take care of your animals properly."

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