Inexcusable actions by Harnett County Animal Shelter concerning panleuk outbreak

News of the inexcusable actions by the Harnett County Animal Shelter is making the rounds on social media today on how a recent panleuk (feline panleukopenia also called: feline parvovirus, aka ‘parvo’) outbreak was handled by the Lillington, North Carolina facility.

Killed at Harnett County Shelter
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Animal advocate Susan Shaddock explained it best in a statement she wrote up about how many animals, both in cat rescues as well as forever homes, have been put at risk.

“UPDATE: there was parvo in the shelter last week. The shelter posted a notice on its website today, contacted adopters and rescues. Too bad they didn’t care enough to be so conscientious about the cats.

RE THE CATS: Last Wednesday Steve Berube, the shelter manager, was notified that a kitten pulled by rescue had tested positive for panleukopenia. He did nothing. He did not notify anyone, adopters or rescues, did not quarantine the cats, and allowed cats/kittens to be adopted out afterward. Nothing was done until there was an outcry from a local animal advocate. Then they found a dead kitten, which they sent to the lab for necropsy. The results are positive for panleukopenia. All cats in the shelter are being killed.

In a shelter where a responsible protocol is observed, incoming animals are vaccinated and quarantined until their health status can be determined. In Harnett, no. They claim they can’t afford to vaccinate but they are charging $30 for each animal pulled. What does that $30 cover? That $30 could vaccinate almost 20 cats. A rescue asked that question but has not been answered.

As is always the case, the community will be asked to excuse the incompetence of the shelter manager. We will be told that is was “just a mistake” and it won’t happen again. It happens over and over. It needs to stop. This shelter needs management that actually cares about the animals, not somebody who endangers animals and then becomes rude, defensive and belligerent when confronted.

From shelter web page: “Cat and Kitten Adoptions On Hold Until further notice, all Cat and Kitten adoptions to the public and rescues are on hold.”

Rest in Peace

What is WRONG with animal shelters this year? The failure to provide a very inexpensive vaccination to protect the cats in their care along with no notice issued to those who are in possession of exposed felines may even put a few cat rescues out of operation.All of the cats in the shelter were killed due to exposure.

The shelter manager, whom I gather is named Steve, eventually contacted those who rescued or adopted the cats.

Another sweet kitten killed

Steve has been told by the shelter veterinarian that he needs to “disinfect” the shelter. Isn’t that a no-brainer? Shelters are a breeding ground for illness for cats and dogs. It should be common sense to follow a proven cleaning protocol on a daily basis. Not just during an outbreak. It also sounds as though Steve should read up on the benefits of vaccinating upon intake. Although the final decision comes from the Board of Commissioners, a shelter director should push for protection against disease.

This whole mess was avoidable but is typical of the actions of many shelters who appear to care very little about the animals in their care. An album of the dead can be found here.

Please feel free to add to the issues that need correction at this shelter

  • failure to vaccinate – vaccination at shelters is essential.
  • no proven cleaning protocol
  • failure to warn rescues and adopters of highly contagious and potentially fatal illness
  • unnecessary euthanasia since all cats may not have been infected
  • poor use of funds (what WAS the $30 fee spent on?)

Your comments are welcome.


29 thoughts on “Inexcusable actions by Harnett County Animal Shelter concerning panleuk outbreak”

  1. Harnett is a neighboring county & I would like to offer legal help if appropriate. Also I think solid factual input is needed — veterinary public health info from nearby NC State Vet School, Nat’l. Assoc. of Shelter Veterinarians, etc. Is anyone interested in setting this up?

    • Marianna, what would it take to get this going? I have some friends that run a rescue group and I’m sure they would be interested.

      • The first thing is to get an open group of people together who want to work on this (maybe a FB page?) We should start by sharing our info about what needs to be changed, then consolidate the ideas & divide up the tasks to get the ball rolling. I know this sounds vague but the organizing will unfold as we go along. I would like to contact the people I know well in Rowan Co. who pulled off a big job last year to clean house in the shelter. They can tell us how they did it step by step — & their situation was (almost) as bad as Harnett. Let me know the ideas you would start with & how we should gather the group.

  2. Does anyone know who is higher in charge that would care to make the necessary changes so someone could begin to circulate a petition demanding more humane action be taken? The petition would have to be placed in the hands of the right person who could do something about this.

  3. There are a few Harnett Shelter workers that do care about all the animals! However, their hands are probably tied by the Shelter manager(who, I might add…spends too much time outside smoking!) And the county Commissioners!

  4. I am crying. Thank You Elisa for the article.My personal opinion is We should “euthanize” the shelter director.

    • I guess you missed the all important word of “some” in this comment there, “Some protection …” And again, if an animal’s immune system is already compromised by other diseases or malnutrition (or even poor genetics), then the vaccination will not take effect, putting them at the far end, or never-end of the probability bell-curve on how long it will take.


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