November 6, 2016 | St. Louis

Oct. 29th Stray Rescue of St. Louis announced their temporary closure due to an outbreak of canine distemper. The presence of the disease dictates that the shelter be closed for a period of thirty days, and that all animals must be tested for the virus and quarantined.

Testing on all dogs is being conducted as well as extensive cleaning and disinfecting of the facility to prevent further spread of the disease. Staff and volunteers have been working around the clock for days.

Staff and volunteers work around the clock at Stray Rescue of St. Louis amid the their recent outbreak of canine distemper | Image via Stray Rescue’s Facebook page
Staff and volunteers work around the clock at Stray Rescue of St. Louis amid the their recent outbreak of canine distemper | Image via Stray Rescue’s Facebook page
Staff and volunteers work around the clock at Stray Rescue of St. Louis amid the their recent outbreak of canine distemper | Image via Stray Rescue’s Facebook page

Randy Grim, head of the well known rescue, believes that the disease entered their facility with a pregnant mother dog. To date, Grim has reported that  20 Stray Rescue dogs have died as a result of the outbreak, including the mother dog and her eight puppies.

The rescue does not immediately vaccinate animals taken in that are pregnant or nursing or animals that have extreme injury or a compromised condition. It was previously believed the inoculations could jeopardize the animals with these conditions. The rescue has since learned differently and in the future vaccinations will be administered immediately on intake.

Grim has posted several updates on the situation via video and written posts on Stray Rescue of St. Louis’s Facebook page. He always acknowledges his deepest thanks for support shown by donors and volunteers which include local authorities and businesses.

On Wednesday, Grim hosted a live question and answer session on Facebook.

Just moments before the video broadcast Stray Rescue received a $20,533 donation from the Department of Corrections with whom Stray Rescue participates in the Puppies on Parole program. Grim was obviously touched by the generosity of not only prison administration and staff but by contributions made by inmate organizations as well. You can see the presentation of the donation on the rescue’s Facebook page.

Highlights from the video session:

One participant questioned the types of animals that can carry the disease, asking about opossums.

Grim was strong to suggest, “Just vaccinate your dog. Chances of a vaccinated dog picking up the disease from wild life are slim to none. Let the wildlife experts handle wildlife issues. Just vaccinate your dog.”

It was also stressed that humans cannot contract canine distemper.

Grim also took time to thank Maddie’s Fund, a nonprofit foundation, for getting the rescue in contact with Dr. Newbury who specializes in animal shelter disease control at the University Of Wisconsin School Of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Newbury is currently overseeing the testing as well as treatment for Stray Rescue’s dogs and acting as an advisor for the rescue during this crisis.

All services through the University Of Wisconsin School Of Veterinarian Medicine are being paid for by Maddie’s Fund.

Dogs that had contracted the disease and were diagnosed right away are being treated at Veterinary Specialty Services in St. Louis. VSS is a well known emergency veterinary hospital in the St. Louis area.

When asked how those dogs being treated were doing, Grim tried to answer but became choked saying, “They’re hanging there.”

Many questions were asked about what people could do to help. Grim reiterated the need for donations as such a catastrophic event has high costs. With a shelter that already spends roughly $2.5 million per year operations, an event such as this would certainly increase those costs.

For those who cannot afford to donate: “If you cannot afford to donate, your prayers are always needed just as much as donations,” said Grim.

Inquiries were made about fostering and Grim directs those questions to Dana and Valerie, the ladies that handle fostering at Stray Rescue.

For fostering dogs not at risk, you can contact

People willing to foster dogs needing medical care should contact Valerie@strayrescue .org

Medical fostering would be for people who have the extra time to administer nebulizer treatments and other treatments prescribed for individual animals. As Grim states in the video, animals recovering from injury or illness always recover better and faster in a home environment as opposed to a shelter.

Obviously exhausted Grim admits to having “rescue withdraw”, wanting to get back to business as soon as possible; a comment understandable for a man who spends 365 days a year crawling through brush and old buildings and chasing needing animals through the streets to help give them a better life. He’s made rescue his life and this outbreak has been devastating for him and left him out of sorts.

The rescue is currently building an intake room that Grim hopes will be completed by the middle of November. This will help to better isolate new intakes and keep them from the shelter’s general population until they have been vaccinated and can be observed before joining the rest of the animals in the main building.

Grim also mentions several other animal organizations have reached out to offer support any way they can. His gratitude is obvious.

Some participants in the Q & A inquired about the condition of individual dogs. With an organization as large as Stray Rescue, housing somewhere between 300-400 animals, it was impossible at this time for Grim to make any comments on individual dogs. He did indicate that when the situation at the shelter became more manageable there would be an announcement of the animals that perished and those that are in need of continued treatment.

Grim also stated that many of their dogs not showing symptoms are being Titer tested. This is a test that can show, with almost immediate results, whether or not a dog has the immunity to fight off certain types of infectious disease. Grim stated that the dogs [passing the Titer testing] would be available for adoption as soon as the organization was given the green light.

In a video update later that day, Grim announced that many of the Stray Rescue dogs had been cleared through testing and were ready for adoption as soon as possible.

Adoptions for the dogs that have cleared testing are expected to begin on Monday. Grim stresses that adoptions will be by appointment only and likely happen no more than four at a time to avoid utter chaos in and already hectic environment.

So far, at least half the dogs at the rescue have been tested and cleared for adoption. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is sponsoring all current canine adoptions in order to help the dogs find homes as quickly as possible.

Grim, obviously exhausted by the emotional and physical stress of the past several days, continues to thank and express his gratitude to everyone supporting the rescue; support he says is coming from all over the county. A formal “thanks” is likely to follow in the coming weeks.

The rescue’s founder asks that everyone continue to pray for the best outcome for this situation, especially the dogs that continue to struggle.

“It [your prayers and support] means the world to us and especially our dogs,” said Grim.

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Grim would also like to remind that they they currently have at least 50 cats in foster needing forever homes.

One of the 50 cats available for adoption through Stray Rescue of St. Louis | Image via Stray Rescue’s Facebook page

To keep abreast of updates or obtain to information on adoption, fostering, volunteering, and/or donating, you can follow Stray Rescue of St. Louis on Facebook, Twitter, or their website.

Staff and volunteers work around the clock at Stray Items needed for the distemper cleanup at Stray Rescue of St. Louis | Image via Stray Rescue’s Facebook page

Stray Rescue of St. Louis
2320 Pine St., St. Louis, Mo. 63103
Telephone (314) 771-6121
Fax (314) 621-3109 (fax)
Stray Rescue Animal Abuse Hotline: (314) 771-6121 extension 232.