Shelter prepares to reopen after another parvo outbreak claims 7 dogs


UPDATE (9:48 pm) Seven shelter dogs total are now confirmed to have died from parvo.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- The Sullivan County Animal Shelter will reopen Wednesday after a parvo outbreak infected several puppies. The shelter has been closed since July 1st. 

July 1st was also the same day a newly-appointed manager began work at the shelter. Shelter volunteers and Sullivan County mayor Richard Venable confirmed the new manager quit that day after spending a few hours at the shelter. 

The shelter has been under the responsibility of Sullivan County for the past 18 months. A private board took charge of the shelter on July 1st, the same day it closed from the second parvo outbreak and the new manager quit.

Venable said the board is currently searching for a new shelter manager.

“I would love to have [a manager] in place by the end of this week,” Venable said. 

The University of Tennessee mobile veterinary lab is coming to the shelter Tuesday to conduct parvo prevention training with the staff. The training is in response to the recent outbreak that forced the shelter to shut its doors and halt all adoptions. 

So far the shelter has confirmed nine cases of parvo among its dogs. Seven dogs are confirmed dead so far from the highly contagious illness.

Vicky Darnell, volunteer coordinator for the shelter, said the parvo disease first entered the shelter when a sick puppy arrived in May. The shelter closed that month, but reopened after workers deep-cleaned the interior.

The disease broke out again at the shelter in recent weeks when a litter of chihuahua puppies caught the illness. 

Volunteers told News Channel 11 the parvo could have been prevented, but the litter of puppies was not properly vaccinated after arriving at the shelter.

Venable said is searching for answers in regards to why dogs weren’t being vaccinated. 

“Even in the best run shelters, they have parvo outbreaks,” Venable said. “There’s a lot of urban legends going around on social media. Even being the mayor, even I have difficulty getting proper information. So I would encourage everybody just to wait before they make decisions on how they think things are.”

 In the meantime, the shelter is currently overcapacity with 52 dogs and over 150 cats under its roof. Volunteers and staff are urging people to adopt and rescue the animals when it reopens Wednesday.

“The volunteers, we just want what’s best for the animals,” Darnell said. “We would love to get together with the staff, leadership in the county, the board, everybody on the same team, and try to do what’s best for the animals. That’s all we want.”

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