BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Brownsville Animal Regulation and Care Center (BARCC) was forced to change its operation after a highly contagious virus was identified in the facility.

The center initially announced a temporary closure for up to six weeks but on Thursday decided to remain open.

“Right now, the shelter just isn’t the best place for healthy animals at the moment. So, in the attempt to ensure their well-being we are asking that you first reach out to any local rescue groups that might be available,” Antonio Caldwell, the Deputy Director of Animal Services for the City of Brownsville said.

According to Caldwell, they will not release any dogs for adoption or receive any dogs for up to six weeks.

These decisions were made after a dog in the center’s care tested positive for distemper. 

“The animal was decreasing health very quickly. We did the humane thing and put the animal down but sent samples to the lab for testing and we got the results back two days ago and it was positive for distemper,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell said that about thirty days prior to the distemper case, parvo had also made its way to the shelter.

The city’s public health and wellness veterinarian said disease in shelters is common.

“Distemper is not new in the shelter. We’ve had cases before and the reason that we are seeing it more right now is because our length of stay has been extended,” Dr. Logan McAllister said.  

She said the shelter has been able to increase its save rate to 85%, but longer stays for the dogs, allow for more time for diseases to incubate.

“Distemper is a highly contagious disease and if the animals are not vaccinated properly or at all. It can be fatal,” McAllister said.

McAllister and Caldwell both said vaccinating your pet is one way the community can help the shelter.

“Vaccinations are the critical component of keeping pets healthy, keeping our populations healthy, and stopping the spread of the disease,” Caldwell said.

The shelter remains open for cat adoptions and to help with any cases of aggressive animals through the animal control department, any dogs suspected to have rabies, and animal cruelty cases.

Caldwell advised if anyone adopted a dog within the last four to six weeks and the dog shows signs of illness, they should contact the center.