Animal rescue groups speak out about distemper outbreak in Midland

MIDLAND -- Rumer Ferguson and her dog Kenai are inseparable.

Not just because they have a close bond, but because he is her service dog.

"He is my seizure alert. He lets me know about 10 to 15 minutes before I have a seizure. He's everywhere with me," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said Kenai needs to be healthy to work and keep her safe.

Although, she said she's had a few scares - after two dogs she rescued from the Midland Animal Shelter ended up having distemper.

Both rescues, Dax and Joker, ended up dying. Two of her other dogs caught the disease from the rescues and died as well.

"It's really hard because you get attached to these animals," Ferguson said.

Tracie Gearhart is the president of Midland Animal Shelter Adoptables (MASA) and works with dogs at the shelter almost everyday to help find them homes.

She told CBS7 that the current distemper outbreak in Midland has lasted longer than in times past.

She said diseases like distemper and parvo start with stray and wild animals, and can spread to your pets if you don't keep up-to-date on their vaccinations.

"Everybody needs to work together to get these dogs vaccinated," Gearhart said. "So, when that coyote or that fox shows up in our neighborhoods, that dog is protected and will not be catching that disease."

Midland Animal Services Manager Leah Lewis told CBS7 they do everything they can to prevent diseases from circulating in the shelter or community.

She said they administer all animals that come through their doors with parvo, distemper and bordatella vaccines, but added that they act as a booster and the abandoned animals could already have caught diseases.

Although distemper is plaguing Midland, rescue groups said it's not the shelter's fault.

"Don't give up on the shelter dogs, please don't. They're amazing, they really are, and they need you," local rescuer Debbie Terry said.

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Here's a few tips the rescuers want to pass on to current and future pet owners:

1. If you're interested in adopting from Midland Animal Shelter, plan a check-up with your vet ahead of time - for the day you pick up your new dog or cat.

2. Consult regularly with your vet to make sure your pets are protected and up-to-date on vaccinations.

3. Search for upcoming shot clinics in your area to vaccinate your dogs and cats at a cheaper price.