Unknown illness spreads through cat population in shelter

By Peggy Mackenzie

The Greenbrier County Animal Shelter closed their cat intakes and adoption services last week as a result of the spread of a respiratory illness to almost the entire cat population at the shelter.

Greenbrier Humane Society Board President Judith Walz-Harris says the humane society has tried for a month to get a handle on what was slowly killing the cats.

“We have had many animals infected by this disease,” Walz-Harris said. “We have tried many different treatment options and none of it has worked.” Walz-Harris says this illness is specific to cats and is not affecting their dog population in any way.

After consulting with area veterinarians and an infectious disease specialist at Virginia Tech, WalzHarris says no one has been able to identify the illness. More than 60 cats and kittens at the shelter were infected.

“We cannot humanely allow our cats to continue to suffer,” she told the press. “With the advice of local veterinarians, we have made the decision of last resort, which is to humanely euthanize our existing cat population.”

Veterinarian Sabrina Dowdy who has been involved with the case and works closely with the shelter, said, “It’s a hard decision, it tears at your heartstrings, but at the same time, you have to look at the other side. You don’t want them to suffer. We want to be able to help as many as we can help, and right now we’re not even able to do that.”

A few cats were able to be saved. A new mom had her babies on Wednesday of last week, and all are now safe and healthy in a foster home.

The shelter will go through a decontamination period. It is not clear when they can reopen to cats. The Humane Society is asking for any help fostering cats and kittens in the meantime. If you can help, call the humane society at 304-645-4775.