Vt. families devastated as dogs from disaster zones start dying

 Dogs arriving at All Breed Rescue from Texas in September.
Dogs arriving at All Breed Rescue from Texas in September. (WCAX)
Published: Oct. 11, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
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As Hurricane Harvey barreled through Texas, a team from All Breed Rescue in Williston went to help.

"We're highly dedicated to saving as many dogs as we can," said Scarlett Clark of All Breed Rescue.

The organization's volunteers were able to rescue 34 dogs from a southern shelter, freeing up space for others that were displaced by the destruction. The nearly three dozen puppies were then brought back to Vermont, where in just days they were all adopted.

"Every dog that comes up that passes state borders has to have an inspection, where basically a vet examines the dog and has to sign off saying there's no signs of any illnesses," said Christie Kershaw, the animal care supervisor at All Breed Rescue.

But despite that examination and another conducted at All Breed, some of those dogs later showed symptoms of sickness. And within days, a couple had to be put down.

"At this point, we've heard that unfortunately two of the puppies have passed away. And they were confirmed positive for distemper virus," Kershaw said.

All Breed tells us that the virus was likely contracted before puppies were vaccinated and not detected by their tests because symptoms had not yet shown up. But now...

"A few other puppies have been sick," Kershaw said.

Including a puppy being cared for by St. Albans Veterinarian Dr. John Bergeson.

"A day or two after he arrived, he had nasal discharge and was sneezing and coughing," Bergeson said.

The virus is extremely threatening to a young pup's immune system and can be deadly.

"It's fatal in about 50 percent of dogs that are clinical for it," Bergeson said.

All Breed says they feel awful that this has been the fate of some dogs they were trying to save. However, the organization admits some usual internal protocols were not followed ahead of the rescues, including a lack of typical vaccinations.

"This was kind of an emergent, unique situation down there," Kershaw said.

All Breed Rescue says they have contacted all families who adopted the Texas dogs and that most are reportedly doing well. For those impacted, they are reimbursing costs for distemper tests, fundraising for any treatments and offering free adoption of a new puppy to those with pets that don't make it.