Volunteers help prevent euthanasia amid Odessa shelter's possible distemper outbreak

ECTOR COUNTY -- Wednesday the Odessa Animal Control Shelter announced it would euthanize more than 100 animals, but volunteers are helping get vulnerable dogs to safety.

Several nonprofit organizations are helping the Odessa shelter contain the illness spreading through their kennels.

Volunteers are loading up their trucks with animals without symptoms to shelters outside Odessa.

American Pets Alive Shelter Management Advisor Faith Wright said she’s impressed with the effort to get many of the exposed dogs out of the shelter.

The shelter has been trying to handle an outbreak they believe could be distemper – a severe and highly contagious respiratory disease.

After more than 140 dogs were exposed, the shelter announced a plan to euthanize them all.

But when American Pets Alive flew from Austin to help, that plan was reconsidered.

“Once they found out we would be able to help them and give them suggestions and ideas and got all the community support behind them to start helping decrease the population obviously they were very excited to not have to do the euthanasias,” Wright said.

Shelter organizers say moving the dogs out greatly reduced the chance of euthanasia, but also said it’s still an option going forward.

Key to Happiness Shelter Manager Bridget Richardson said the idea of euthanizing dogs is upsetting and that outbreaks like these are always preventable.

“If everyone would spay and neuter and vaccinate … this wouldn’t happen,” Richardson said.

Shelter organizers did not confirm how many dogs are showing signs of illness and are waiting for test results to see if it the respiratory outbreak plaguing the shelter is distemper.