GBHS temporarily suspends adoptions due to canine viral disease outbreak


Meet Ida—the GBHS foster family became adopted. (Summer Guffey/Bham Now)

An outbreak of distemper, a canine viral disease, has necessitated a temporary suspension of all dog intakes and adoptions at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS). To maximize the lives saved, GBHS works with shelter medical experts so you can get back to saving those puppies. Keep reading to learn more.

Distemper outbreak

Layla good girl
They do their best to keep these puppies safe. (GBHS)

GBHS has registered three dogs infected with the distemper virus (CDV), according to chief veterinarian Dr Lindy Alverson. But what is tempera? It is a contagious virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies. Humans cannot contract this disease.

Currently, GBHS staff are working diligently, collaborating with shelter medical experts and establishing an aggressive response strategy. Specialists include:

  • Dr. Cynda Crawford of Maddie’s Refuge Medicine Program at the University of Florida
  • Dr. Brendan Bergquist, assistant clinical professor of refuge medicine at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“”We learned today [April 27th] that nine other shelters in the southeast are also dealing with CDV outbreaks.

Allison Black Cornelius, CEO, Greater Birmingham Humane Society

The plan

Bham now Florence
Remember to keep hope, the experts have everything under control. (GBHS)

Fortunately, GBHS has a proactive plan which they believe will maximize the number of lives saved while minimizing the spread of the virus. Their plan includes temporarily suspending dog adoptions, handing over owners, and admitting healthy, non-dangerous strays.

Puppies that have been directly exposed to infected people are quarantined, tested and monitored for symptoms. Cats are not at risk of infection since it is a canine virus, so you can still adopt the kittens.

The source of this outbreak is currently unknown.

“At this time GBHS does not believe the majority of the animals in our care have been directly exposed. Dogs that pose a risk to public safety, are seriously injured or have been seized for negligence or cruelty and need to be brought to the shelter will be housed in a separate area from the quarantined population.Different staff members are dedicated to providing care to dogs in separate areas to avoid cross-contamination.

Dr Lindy Alverson, Chief Veterinarian, Greater Birmingham Humane Society

What to do if you recently adopted GBHS

If you have recently adopted, transferred, or picked up a dog from GBHS within the last month, they will offer drive-through testing in the Snow Drive Center parking lot.

To reduce waiting time and cross-contamination, you will need to allow an hour for your visit. If you have any questions, email them to

The shelter is currently testing over 200 dogs, so remember to be patient as they maintain the safest practices while tackling this outbreak.

“It is important to note that CDV is carried by local wildlife, including raccoons, foxes, skunks and coyotes. Add to that a large population of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated dogs running free with exposure to wildlife, and you greatly increase the risk of a dog contracting the virus and bringing it with them to our facility.

Dr Lindy Alverson, Chief Veterinarian, Greater Birmingham Humane Society

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