Several residents of the LOU community have come forward with reports that pets they adopted or fostered from the Oxford Lafayette Humane Society have contracted canine parvovirus, or parvo, and died just days after adoption.
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious and fast-acting disease affecting dogs. Despite OLHS taking measures to prevent its spread, such as limiting the age at which a puppy may be adopted, several students and community members have seen the disease’s effects.
Parvo has been a problem at OLHS in the past, according to Kit Smith, a kennel assistant at the shelter.
“In the past we’ve had issues with parvo, but every reward comes with a risk,” Smith said. “When we take in animals, we try to do the humane thing instead of leaving them on the side of the road. Whether they’re sick or not, we try to make their lives — as long or as short as (they are) — as comfortable as possible.”
Smith said steps are in place to avoid spreading illness and that everyone who fosters or adopts is made aware of anything wrong with their pets.
Ole Miss students often adopt and foster dogs from OLHS, alleviating some of the overpopulation problem. But some students have become attached to new pets just to find out that they have only days to live.
Psychology major Kristi Carrasquillo fostered a dog from the staff at OLHS, but said the puppy was diagnosed with parvo just two days later.
“I told them, ‘He keeps vomiting, he has really bad diarrhea and he wont eat or drink,’ and they said, ‘That’s normal puppy behavior, but keep an eye on it,’” Carrasquillo said. “This is after they already knew that two puppies of his litter had parvo and had been put down. I had to tell my roommates to say their last goodbyes.”
Carrasquillo said that she thinks that more could be done to fight this issue and that hopefully things can change.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Carrasquillo said. “I feel like a lot more (dogs) could be saved if people would pay more close attention and invest in saving the life of a puppy, but it often comes down to, ‘Can I afford this?’ (This) often leads to most people having to put down their dogs that have (parvo).”
Biology major Emily Briner said she had a similar experience. She adopted an eight-month-old labrador retriever, and three days later, the puppy died from parvo.
“The puppy was only eight weeks old, and he was really small and weak. Within three days of adopting him, he died,” Briner said. “We contacted the Humane Society about it, and they just told us, ‘We’re not liable.’ They said that since we signed the papers, they weren’t liable and … wouldn’t help. That’s not their job.”
OLHS spokesperson and member of its board of directors Lee Habeeb said the problem is in large part a lack of resources.
After the shelter closes, the ASPCA will rehome all of the pets currently in the care of OLHS, and the shelter will refocus its attention to fighting the problem of overpopulation.
“We’re not perfect,” Habeeb said. “It’s a tragic thing, but we do everything in our power to prevent that from happening. But it still happens. A lot of this problem is out in the community, which is why we want to go to only spaying and neutering. This is the biggest reason that we do what we do.”
The contract between OLHS and the city of Oxford is set to end on Sept. 30. Two local animal rescues, Mississippi Critterz and Mississippi MUTTS, have submitted bids to take over control of OLHS, but the shelter’s future is still unclear.
OLHS is now planning to remain open and act only as a spaying and neutering clinic. The new goal will be to provide an affordable service to the community to cut down on overpopulation.
“I always ask people to walk in our shoes for a day so that they can can know what we’re up against,” Habeeb said. “In about two months we’ll announce our reopening and go into the community and into homes to offer a low-cost spaying and neutering service. Many people just can’t afford it, and that’s a problem. We’re going to make it affordable. That’s where we’ll be putting our money — in prevention, that’s it.”
Habeeb said OLHS does all that it can to deal with these issues, but the current way that the shelter is run is not sustainable.
“With the limited number of people and our limited resources, it’s best to try to attack this problem at its source,” Habeeb said. “We can’t adopt our way out of this, and we can’t release our way out of this. We certainly don’t want to euthanize our way out of this. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”