Update 8/12/08 – See Update on the Tangipahoa Parish Council meeting

Sad as it is, sometimes there will be an infectious breakout at an animal shelter and too often, due to lack of funds for treatment, many of the shelter animals die or are euthanized. It’s not pleasant, it’s not nice, it may not have to happen, but it is reality and yeah, sometimes reality really sucks!

Earlier this week in a New Orleans animal shelter, the Tangipahoa Parish Animal Shelter in Hammond, there was an outbreak of canine coronavirus. In an effort to stem the further spread of this highly infectious disease, it was decided to euthanize many of the animals, shut the shelter down clean it thoroughly.

170 animals lost their lives, that’s every animal that was at the shelter at the time of the outbreak!

Canine coronavirus primarily affects the intestinal tract of dogs. Signs may include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Although it’s not always fatal, once infected, a dog becomes a “carrier” for several weeks — even after recovery. The virus can then live in the environment for several months.

So this was the initial story that came out but did all those animals have to die?? Was this mass killing really necessary?? Shelter employees, past and present don’t think so and worse is coming….

“It’s a pitiful thing,” Jay Callais, former director of the Tangipahoa Parish Animal Control Center, said. “Someone has to be responsible for animals being killed for no reason.”

Parish President Gordon Burgess said it had to be done and authorized the action on the advice of two area veterinarians who examined the animals.

Betsy Pittman, who was the euthansia technician for the shelter was on vacation at the time this happened. Shortly after she returned she tendered her resignation citing “an unprofessional and hostile working environment.”

“You use every resource you have,” she said. “We have a lot of rescue groups.”

She also recorded a conversation between a shelter worker and volunteer regarding the cleaning of the shelter.

In the recording, the employee is heard saying it’s OK to lightly clean the kennels, instead of doing an extensive cleaning.

“Just tidy them up, that’s all. That’s all you have to do,” the employee told the volunteer.

“But when I worked at the vet’s office, even on weekends we…,” said the volunteer.

“Right, well this isn’t the vet’s office, and Mr. D said go ahead and clean it,” the employee said. “You don’t have to get in it and scrub it.” (WDSU)

Now, if they were supposed to be cleaning the shelter thoroughly to eradicate any traces of the diseased that caused them to kill 170 animals, why would anyone in their right mind say this??

And the story actually gets worse, if you can believe it!

Another shelter worker, who has since also resigned, claims that the animals will euthanized without benefit of sedation.

“They were sticking these puppies without sedation,” Mary Ann Newcomb said. “They were sticking them to the heart, blowing their hearts up. The screams are still in my mind.”

Newcomb said she began to try hiding animals and even took one kitten home but 170 animals died cruel deaths.

“There was no sedation used,” Newcomb said. “This doctor had no right to do these animals like this. He had no right.”

Amite veterinarian Dr. Tiger Halsey is one of two veterinarians Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess called in to assess an outbreak of disease in the shelter. Newcomb said Halsey handled the euthanasia.

Former euthanasia technician Becky Pittman said it’s never been shelter policy to put an animal down without sedation.

“Without sedation, no, absolutely not,” Pittman said.

Newcomb said parish leaders made it clear that day that they simply wanted to clear the shelter out and start over. (WDSU)

Of course these claims are being denied but why would anyone make a claim like that if it wasn’t true? What does she have to gain?

This is not the first New Orleans shelter that’s come under fire lately, Caddo Parish is another that’s been rife with problems and of course there are the horror stories that still live in the hearts and minds of too many about the massacre that took place during Katrinia.

The issue goes before the Tangipahoa Parish Council in Amite Monday night so I guess we’ll be hearing more and I really hope the truth comes out and isn’t swept under the carpet as happens far too often.

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