Mayor's Office Press Release

BARC Services Closed Due to Illness Precautions Drive-Through Assistance Available for Sick, Injured and Foster Animals
Shelter Closed July 4-12, 2021

July 6, 2021 -- BARC, the City of Houston’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, will close to the public for all services effective immediately, Sunday, July 4 through Monday, July 12, to address an unusually high presence of upper respiratory illness and one confirmed positive case of distemper in the shelter. BARC animal control and bite case investigations will continue, and during the closure, BARC will take in sick, injured or fading animals.  BARC’s foster clinic will remain open, but services will be limited to drive-through only.  BARC will reach out to partners and customers to reschedule existing appointments and events for all other services.

BARC recently impounded seven dogs that were exposed and possibly infected with distemper - an ever-present yet treatable concern in communities with large populations of stray animals. BARC has confirmed one positive case. Distemper affects certain mammals, excluding humans and cats. BARC has isolated the remaining dogs that have been exposed and is waiting on test results to determine if additional precautions need to be taken.

“Out of concern for the hundreds of healthy animals who come to BARC each week, as well as BARC’s spay and neuter and wellness clinic customers, BARC is taking immediate, preemptive measures to isolate the issue,” said BARC Shelter Director Greg Damianoff.  “This will allow BARC to focus our resources on treating sick animals and prevent further spread within the shelter population.”

During this time, BARC will:

  • Identify, isolate, and treat infected animals
  • Carefully monitor healthy but exposed animals for future symptoms 
  • Ensure that no animals are placed into the community until they are without symptoms or past the incubation period
  • Conduct a deep cleaning of the shelter to reduce further contamination

BARC is committed to the highest standards of veterinary practices and has established an infectious disease protocol in conjunction with Dr. Cynda Crawford, Chair of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Distemper symptoms may include thick nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing and, in severe cases, may affect the neurological system, causing seizures, tremors, and death. Individuals who have adopted dogs from BARC that show potential symptoms are encouraged to contact the shelter for free medical treatment. BARC will also refund adoptions fees and accept returned animals from those who are unable or unwilling to care for potentially sick animals.

About BARC

BARC, the City of Houston’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center, takes in between 25,000 and 30,000 animals annually regardless of behavior, breed, or medical condition.  BARC works each day to improve the health and safety of Houstonians and their pets by pioneering programs such spay/neuter services, mobile adoptions, transfer/rescue partnerships, and community outreach. Through these programs and with support from community partners, BARC’s live release rate has improved from single-digits in 2009 to an 95% in 2021.