Topeka, Kan. — More than 1,000 dogs were euthanized as a last resort to thwart a canine distemper virus (CDV) outbreak at a USDA-licensed
Kansas kennel, reports Dr. Bill Bown, Kansas' Livestock Commissioner.
The dogs were signed over to the Kansas Animal Health Department in December after an unnamed kennel operator discovered CDV
was circulating through the kennel. Tests indicated that the virus spread to pet stores in other states following the transport
and sale of infected dogs, Brown says.
The kennel had been placed under quarantine twice previously since mid-October. CDV was present still. The last quarantine
would have had to last for several months to fully eradicate the virus.
"These combined factors led to the determination that all dogs would have to be removed from the facility, the quarantine
continued in the empty kennel and a cleanup period implemented to allow for a significant time to clean and disinfect before
dogs could be returned to the premise," according to a statement from the Kansas Animal Health Department. "Quarantine in
place was not an option due to the inability of the facility to continue to feed, water and care for the dogs, as well as
the continued circulation of virus throughout the facility. The large number of dogs housed at the kennel made testing unfeasible."
Since officials could not determine whether or not each dog was free from infection, officials made the decision to euthanize
"Though some dogs were removed from the facility and placed in extended quarantine, the majority of the dogs and puppies were
humanely euthanized to prevent the possible spread of disease to other kennels or shelters and to prevent suffering that may
have occurred if the owner had been unable to continue to care for them."
The decision to euthanize was not an easy one, Brown adds.
"The department had to balance its dual responsibilities of maintaining the welfare of the dogs with preventing the disease
from spreading outside of the kennel. Decisions were made only after extensive discussions with numerous veterinarians familiar
with distemper in breeding kennels," he says. "This difficult decision was the last choice of the department and the breeder,
but in the end, all believe it was the only humane way to accomplish both objectives: to prevent the spread of disease and
protect the dogs from prolonged suffering."