American Pets Alive! Helps Neighboring City Shelter Improve Intake Procedures

by melissa • Posted in: Awareness/ PR

Through American Pets Alive, our national branch of APA!, we’ve been able to expand the heart of our mission and help other communities focus on becoming no-kill. Just two weeks ago, our own executive director Dr. Ellen Jefferson spent the day at San Antonio Animal Care Services (ACS) living out that mission. San Antonio ACS has recently re-committed to becoming a no-kill community, and alongside shelter staff, Dr. Jefferson helped review, update, and modify their intake vaccination protocol to ensure that all the dogs were receiving the life saving vaccines on time, every time.

“Giving vaccinations immediately upon intake is absolutely necessary to create and maintain a no-kill shelter,” said Dr. Jefferson. “There are terrible diseases that essentially exist only in shelter environments. The spread of diseases such as canine distemper could nearly be eradicated with timely and appropriate shelter vaccination procedures.”

Vaccinating before entering is one of the most crucial decisions a shelter can make as they pursue a no-kill model. A vaccination can provide nearly immediate protection for an animal against disease. Distemper is a big problem in San Antonio, particularly for animals adopted out of ACS.  If distemper is a problem for any shelter’s adopted pets, that means that shelter is not vaccinating appropriately upon intake.

The vaccine, given before the animal enters the shelter, will not prevent the disease 100 percent, but it will prevent the death of that animal from that disease. Instead, the pet may have a cold or even a severe cold but they will not have seizures and die the way they do if they are not vaccinated before entering the shelter.  Since distemper is airborne, the moment an animal enters the shelter, it is exposed.  If an animal is vaccinated after that exposure, the vaccination has no chance of providing a benefit.

Not vaccinating at intake leads to devastating consequences that inevitably lead to an avoidable amount of suffering. APA! knows firsthand how important it is to prevent dogs from being infected by these diseases. Last year, Austin suffered the same problem until City Council offices got involved and demanded vaccination protocol implementation.  Because of the horror that APA suffered caring for the dogs affected by distemper last year, the organization has become somewhat of an expert on the subject of prevention, spread, and treatment of the disease. The newly created Ozzy’s Team is a project in memory of a beloved puppy named Ozzy A Boxer, who tragically passed away after a valiant battle with distemper. Ozzy’s Fund was also established to help other dogs with distemper get the treatment they need to have a chance at survival. San Antonio ACS shelter director, Gary Hendel, implemented the new vaccination policy last week and by doing so, has created a new era of life saving.  Now when a dog is rescued or adopted from ACS, it has a much better chance of living a long healthy life.

In late September, American Pets Alive! hosted our first-ever conference and was able to share information about some of our key programs and successes with animal rescue groups from around the country, as well as groups in our own backyard. By reaching out, and engaging and empowering communities around the country, American Pets Alive! is sure to be a catalyst for more communities going no-kill. And hopefully, San Antonio will be embracing its no-kill status soon.

By Jessi Freud, Austin Pets Alive! volunteer

Photo courtesy of Scarlett-Blue Photo

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2 Responses to "American Pets Alive! Helps Neighboring City Shelter Improve Intake Procedures"

  1. Lindsay O'Gansays: October 27, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    This is such amazing news. Watching the distemper problems that came out of TLAC last year, and then having to see it all over again with San Antonio, has been heartbreaking. Knowing that these puppies suffer from a disease that is easily preventable is hard to witness.

    I am so relieved that American Pets Alive is available to help educate shelters about the importance of such simple things as intake vaccinations. I hope people in other communities will see this story and encourage their city leaders to require their shelters to vaccinate immediately on intake prior to joining general population. Even at shelters that haven’t made it to no-kill yet, the vaccinations are still crucial step toward saving as many lives as possible.

    Thank you AmPA!

  2. Marilyn Littsays: October 31, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I blog about “no kill” San Antonio on Dog.Cat.Blog You have to first commit before you can “re-commit.” San Antonio has never made a good faith effort toward no kill. They had an expensive PR campaign; but Animal Care Services has not had an adoption center for years and will not have one for at least another year.

    Here is how to build an adoption center overnight if you are serious about no kill. Make a list of animals that will not be killed. That is your adoption center and rescues can work to adopt them out. As it is now, ALL animals get 72 hours. TV shows have aired features on adoptable animals that are already dead because there is 72 hours before adoption/rescue/kill and 75% die when time is up. You cannot effectively adopt out animals that may be reclaimed. But as soon as the reclamation period is up, they are killed.