The Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley (ASCMV) asks the public for help in combating canine distemper by reducing the number of animals brought to the ASCMV.

Canine distemper has been increasing in the U.S. since 2021, and the ASCMV has seen a dramatic rise in the number of ASCMV animals with distemper.

Residents are asked not to relinquish unwanted pets or strays at the ASCMV or to Animal Control officers and instead make every attempt to rehome the animal themselves to prevent that animal from contracting distemper or bringing it to the ASCMV. The ASCMV should be the absolute last resort for relinquishing your animal.

Animal Control officers will assist the ASCMV by doing their best to limit animals brought to the ASCMV while continuing to provide necessary services for the safety of people and animals.

ASCMV Medical Director Dr. Trina Hadden said, “Distemper is highly contagious, has a 50 percent mortality rate, and can be easily mistaken for other diseases because it can affect multiple organ systems, such as respiratory, nervous, and gastrointestinal.”

Even when not fatal, distemper may leave an animal with permanent neurological issues. Dr. Hadden noted that an animal with distemper sheds the virus – meaning they are contagious – one to two weeks before signs of disease even arise and continue for typically two to four months after signs of disease are gone.

The ASCMV consulted with nationally recognized shelter medicine expert Dr. Cynda Crawford, who has so far helped more than 68 shelters combat distemper outbreaks. To combat distemper, the number of animals impounded must be reduced so the ASCMV can separate incoming animals from longer-term residents, called a “clean break,” and testing must be increased.

The ASCMV can execute the clean break and testing but must have help from the public to reduce the number of owner-relinquished animals and strays brought to the ASCMV.

The ASCMV is the municipal animal shelter serving Las Cruces and Doña Ana County. On average, the ASCMV intakes 9,000 to 10,000 animals each year, brought in by city and county animal control and the public as strays or owner-relinquished pets.

The ASCMV mission is to serve the community by providing safe shelter for lost, mistreated, and abandoned animals in Doña Ana County and using all channels available to place these animals into safe, loving, and permanent homes whenever possible.

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