ST. PAULS - Staff at the Robeson County Animal Shelter euthanized more than 50 dogs Wednesday after two puppies tested positive for parvo.
Animal rights advocates are decrying the decision.
In an effort to prevent an outbreak at the shelter, Veterinary Director Curt Locklear recommended all dogs younger than 1year old be put down. The shelter won't be accepting young dogs for at least two weeks while staff members scrub the facility in St. Pauls, county officials said.
"It's a tough decision, it really is," Locklear said. "But to try to nip this in the bud, you have got to go in and euthanize all the puppies and thoroughly disinfect the pound. It's the only way to stop it."
Parvo is a highly contagious virus in puppies that destroys the stomach lining, causing bloody diarrhea and vomit. It can be fatal if not treated quickly. Older dogs aren't usually affected by the virus, Locklear said.
Although only two dogs were tested for the illness, Health Director Bill Smith said, several other puppies were showing symptoms as early as last week. A state inspector also recommended euthanizing all the puppies.
"This was our best option," Smith said. "We haven't killed the older dogs. They're being quarantined while they clean and disinfect the shelter."
Some animal rescue groups were outraged by the county decision.
Susan Barrett, a Winston-Salem animal rights advocate, said the situation was handled poorly. The parvo outbreak comes a little more than a month after Barrett and other animal rights advocates dropped a lawsuit alleging abuse and employee misconduct at the rural shelter.
Barrett said rescue groups were pleading for a chance to adopt the dogs before they were put down Wednesday, but shelter staff refused.
"Really, this was not the avenue to go," Barrett said. "With rescues willing to go in and take as many as we could, to not even give us the chance ... that's absurd."
Barrett said she is considering re-filing the lawsuit. She dropped the initial suit after the county hired a new shelter manager and instituted a series of policies allowing for easier pet adoptions.
The new manager, April Lowery, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
The Robeson County shelter has been a popular target of animal rights groups and rescue organizations from across the country in recent years as repeated reports of abuse have surfaced on Internet message boards.
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