Thursday, September 2, 2010

The facility has been shut down for more than a week after an illness forced officials to euthanize 220 animals.

NEWTON, NC (WBTV) – The cleanup continued Wednesday at the Catawba County Animal Shelter in Newton.
The facility has been shut down for more than a week after an illness forced officials to euthanize 220 animals.
"We're still on target to reopen next Tuesday, " said Jay Blatche, Director of the Animal Shelter.
The illness has still not been identified.
It has been characterized as an upper respiratory infection with vomiting, fever and diarrhea.
Blood and nasal samples were sent last month to Cornell University and Oklahoma State University in hopes they could identify the illness but so far they haven't.
"We've sent more samples off the past week and we are still hoping," said Blatche.
A temporary shelter has been set up outside on the animal shelter grounds and 25 cats and dogs, strays and biting animals, have been housed there for the past week. Blatche says none of those animals have gotten sick.
Blatche and some county officials say they have received calls and e-mails from some people upset over how the situation was handled.
Blatche says closing the shelter and euthanizing the animals was a last resort, but "the only choice to keep the illness from spreading."
Officials say they have sought expert advice from across the state and the nation and Blatche said anyone who says he did not do that or accept help from experts "well, that's just not a true statement."
County Commissioners will receive an update on the shelter situation at their meeting Tuesday morning.
The county has been looking at possibly expanding the current shelter or building a new one, but no decision has been reached and officials say that will not be part of the discussion Tuesday morning.
Hickory resident Anneliese Simmons, who described herself as an animal lover, said she is concerned with how the shelter situation was handled and is hoping as the county moves forward it will consider moving the shelter itself.
"This would be a perfect spot for it, " she said Thursday afternoon while pointing at the old Regal manufacturing building across from Hickory High School.
"It is nearer the population center and would have plenty of room," she said.
All discussions so far, including preliminary sketches of a new shelter have involved a facility built on the current site in Newton.
But officials say they would be willing to look at other ideas if they are presented.

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