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October 7, 2021

BARC Clears Shelter of Distemper, Resumes Select Services

BARC, the City of Houston’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, has resumed select services following a temporary, precautionary closure to address an unusually high presence of upper respiratory illness. Effective immediately, BARC will resume all dog intakes, dog adoption, and BARC wellness clinics.

“I thank the staff at BARC for responding to this in a swift and responsible manner. If not for their thorough and effective response, this outbreak could have been much worse,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I also want to recognize the very important work that BARC’s foster families do, and the big hearts of the Houstonians that choose BARC when adopting their next pet.”

On July 9, 2021, BARC confirmed six positive distemper cases and announced closures according to shelter disease control protocols. During that time, BARC executed numerous safety protocols within the shelter and separated dogs that showed signs of illness.

“BARC staff are dedicated to the wellness and safety of our stray pet population, and I am proud of the work they have done to resume their regular services,” said BARC Shelter Director Greg Damianoff. “We are also grateful to the many volunteers, rescue groups, and foster families who help care for shelter pets and provide them with new homes daily and worked alongside our staff throughout this entire process.”

BARC is committed to the highest standards of veterinary practices and has established an infectious disease protocol in conjunction with Dr. Cynda Crawford, Chair of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

BARC implemented the following protocols during the distemper outbreak:

  • Identify, isolate, and treat infected animals
  • Carefully monitor healthy but exposed animals for future symptoms
  • Ensure that no animals were placed into the community until they were without symptoms or past the incubation period
  • Conduct a deep cleaning of shelter to reduce further contamination

“This isn’t just a local issue; many states and animal shelters are currently encountering distemper outbreaks,” Damianoff said. “We urge Houstonians to please have their pets vaccinated to prevent the possible spread of illness among other pets in the community.”

BARC staff urge the public to monitor their own pets for distemper symptoms as the outbreak continues. Distemper symptoms may include thick nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing and, in severe cases, may affect the neurological system, causing seizures, tremors, and death.

How you can help:

As we resume all services, BARC continues to need foster and adoptive homes for pets at the shelter to free up space for future intakes and mitigate future outbreaks. If you are interested in fostering, please visit the BARC Foster webpage at https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/foster_a_pet.html. If you are interested in adopting, please visit the BARC webpage at https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/adopt_a_pet.html.

BARC is also currently partnering with the BISSELL Pet Foundation on its fall "Empty the Shelters" adoption campaign through October 10, 2021. For the campaign, BARC has waived all adoption fees for all fixed pets. Learn more: https://cityofhouston.news/ets-fall-2021/.

If members of the public are unable to foster or adopt, enrichment donations are needed and welcomed at BARC. BARC’s dedicated staff are providing extra enrichment to all dogs at the shelter. Supplies are running low. BARC will accept treat dispensing toys such as Kong’s, rawhides, lick-mats, and spray cheese. Donations may be dropped off seven days a week through the back entrance at BARC, located at 2700 Evella St. Additionally, members of the public may also donate items through the BARC Amazon Wish List and have items shipped directly to BARC. To view the BARC Wish List, please visit: https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/donate_landingpage.html.

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ABOUT BARC

BARC, the City of Houston’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, takes in between 25,000 and 30,000 animals annually regardless of behavior, breed, or medical condition. BARC works each day to improve the health and safety of Houstonians and their pets by pioneering programs such spay/neuter services, mobile adoptions, transfer/rescue partnerships, and community outreach.  Through these programs and with support from community partners, BARC’s live release rate has improved from single digits in 2009 to an 95% in 2021.