Sunday, May 28, 2017

Steve Willis' Message to County Council Members

With grateful appreciation to the Lancaster County Council for stepping up to do what is right for the animals, we are happy to share a message from Steve Willis, Lancaster County Administrator, to Council Members.  Posted with permission from Steve Willis.

Council members,

Alan got the test results from Dr. Crawford today as she had been tied up on an outbreak in Florida. I know y'all have probably seen on the news that we have problems in our area as well with cases reported in Kershaw, York, Chester, and other counties in the area. Alan will remain vigilant as it is inevitable a sick stray will be coming in at some point in the next few months. More on that in a minute.

The test results came back with 17 testing negative and 9 testing positive. Of the 9 that were positive 6 came back with low virus counts and candidates for transfer to Charleston. They may well test negative by next week. Alan's following medical advice with antibiotics and vaccines has worked. Of the other 3 dogs 2 came back with a moderate virus count and 1 came back with a high virus count. I am afraid we will likely have to put just a few dogs down but I am extremely proud of Alan for taking the road less travelled and saving as many dogs as he could. There should be no question where his heart lies on saving as many animals as reasonably possible.

Given what we have been through I have directed Alan to determine a reasonable population cap for the shelter. Our euthanasia rate for space will increase but overcrowding with the virus loose in the area is merely an open invitation to go through this again. We will certainly be working with our rescue partners to save as many as possible.

As you have seen from our media partners a lot of progress has been made at the Shelter. The HVAC system is our remaining major project. We will have a full update at the June I&R meeting. Let me put in a plug for Alan and Councilman Honeycutt; these improvements are not a permanent fix and in no way negates the need for a new facility.

Again I cannot say thank you enough to Dr. Cynda Crawford at the University of Florida, Kim Kelly at the SC Humane Society, the team at the Charleston Animal Society, and of course our local supporters and vets for their assistance during this trying time. A lot of dogs literally owe them and our Shelter staff their lives. I also want to say thank you to Council for allowing me to exceed my budget caps to handle this outbreak and authorize the necessary steps to avoid mass euthanasia. In closing let me thank Jeff and Daniel for supplying staff to help Alan with various improvement projects and our Animal Control staff for working with us during this time.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

WSOCTV Report on Shelter Closure & Reopening

Shelter closed due to deadly disease to reopen, pending blood tests

Article and WSCO-TV news report video by Greg Suskin 
Updated: May 26, 2017 - 5:29 PM

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cat Adoption Letters - This is What it's All About!


Article By Mandy Catoe

May 24, 2017

The mystery disease at the Lancaster County Animal Shelter has been identified as distemper, and there’s a plan in the works that might avoid euthanizing any of the 25 quarantined dogs on the premises.

The shelter remains closed, and a team effort is under way to save the dogs. Shelter staff and volunteers are working with local veterinarians, the S.C. Humane Society, the Charleston County Animal Society, and the Lancaster Area Shelter Supporters (LASS) on a plan to permanently relocate the dogs. At this point, it has spots for 18 of the animals.
"Distemper has run rampant out there, and we have done everything we know to do to save the animals," said County Administrator Steve Willis. "I want to thank Public Works Director Jeff Catoe, shelter Director Alan Williams, and LASS."
The shelter will reopen once cleaning, sanitation and painting have been completed and the two dozen quarantined dogs have a home, Williams said. The county hopes to reopen the shelter this Friday or next Monday, he said.
"We tested every dog we have yesterday (Monday)," he said. "We should know the results by Thursday."
Williams reached out to Kim Kelly, director of the S.C. Chapter of the U.S. Humane Society, when the first dog showed symptoms. Kelly referred Williams to veterinary specialist Dr. Cynda Crawford at the University of Florida.
Crawford began advising him on veterinary protocol a few weeks ago.
"Additional testing by Dr. Crawford found some additional cases of distemper, but a number were with extremely low virus counts," Willis said. "That shows the vaccinations and antibiotics that have been administered are working."
The county has placement commitments for 15 dogs so far, Willis said. The S.C. Humane Society is taking 10 low-virus dogs until they are virus free and Charleston County will house five, Willis said.
Kelly said the Humane Society wants to give the dogs a chance. She praised the county and shelter staff Williams and Carissa Valenti for their efforts at extending the life of these dogs.
"This illness doesn't have to be fatal," she said.
The Charleston County Animal Society expressed its support in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon.
"It used to be that if there was a suspected disease outbreak in a shelter, all the animals would be euthanized, no questions asked," said Abigail Kamleitner. "So we definitely wanted to help Alan and his team at the Lancaster shelter when they went the more difficult route to save lives instead."
She said they were happy to offer a safe place where these dogs can be quarantined and eventually adopted.
On Tuesday afternoon, Williams said about seven dogs still need a place to go.
If tests come back negative for distemper, they can go to rescue groups, but if positive they can be adopted and quarantined by someone with no other dogs, he said.
LASS member Diane Rashall said her group is waiting to see if their help is needed to find one- or two-month homes for dogs that test positive.
The current crisis is due in part to the shelter being so small, with only 24 runs, and a rise in distemper cases throughout the Upstate, Willis said.
The county shelter does not have enough space to quarantine animals.
Moving forward, the shelter will no longer double up the runs, preventing contact between the dogs. It also will reduce the number of dogs housed at the shelter, which unfortunately will result in a higher euthanasia rate, Willis said.
The county will follow medical advice on the remaining dogs, and ”euthanasia is still a possibility," he said. 
Councilman Larry Honeycutt expressed the council's commitment to building a new shelter in 2018. 
"We are going to be able to house more than 24 dogs in a state-of-the-art shelter, and next time we have a breakout of something like this, we won't have to send our animals all over the country," Honeycutt said."We will be able to take care of them right here."
The ordeal has resulted in the county removing the dogs from the shelter as they cleaned, sanitized and painted. Shelter staff set up 20 temporary kennels about a quarter mile away in a clearing in the woods. Tarps cover the kennels, but the rain provides new challenges as they continue to care for the dogs. 
"I want to commend Alan, as I don’t know of many small shelters that would have spent the time and resources he has to try and save these animals," Willis said.
Follow Reporter Mandy Catoe on Twitter @MandyCatoeTLN or
contact her at (803) 283-1152. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

SCCL Keeps on Giving!

The SCCL DCMDVAWV Club is having a pot luck dinner on June 6 at 6:30 pm with a raffle.  All proceeds from raffle will go to LASS/Wags & Whiskers.  We are so fortunate to live in such a giving community!  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

LASS Project Expands Shelter Kennels by 30%

Article Courtesy of Mandy Catoe
May 14, 2017

"There’s a bit of good news at the Lancaster Animal Shelter this week, even as it remains shut down while officials try to eradicate an airborne virus."

Link to Mandy Catoe's Article:

Lancaster Country Shelter Remains Shut Down

Not all facts are correct. Fifteen dogs have died or been euthanized not four. 
Floors are being scraped and re-coated. Air handler system not worked on yet. 
- Diane Rashall

Article Courtesy of Mandy Catoe
Sunday, May 14, 2017

Alan Williams: ‘I am not – I am not – making that decision. It will come from someone above me’

By Mandy Catoe
Sunday, May 14, 2017 

Alan Williams, director of the Lancaster County Animal Shelter, squatted beside one of the temporary pens holding the 25 quarantined animals under his care.
He shook his head as he talked about the dog inside, one of two that came to the shelter three months ago after a drug bust left them homeless. They were emaciated, dehydrated and full of parasites. Williams and his assistant nursed them back to health.
The dog wagged his tail wildly at the sight of his caretaker.
“This is a good dog,” said Williams. “There is no reason it should have to die.”
A life-and-death decision will have to be made soon at the shelter, which was shut down this week because of an uncontrolled, unspecified respiratory virus that has persisted for three weeks.
After moving out the dogs and disinfecting the facility, officials must decide whether to return the animals. They might still be carrying the virus, and that could start the contamination all over again.
Williams, who has run the county-owned shelter for 10 months, is exhausted.
“I’ve been working seven days a week, from sunup till sundown” since the infection was discovered, he said.

<div class="source">MANDY CATOE/The Lancaster News</div><div class="image-desc">This healthy dog arrived at the shelter three months ago, emaciated and filled with parasites. The shelter staff nursed it back to health.</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="/photo_select/60723">Buy this photo</a></div>
MANDY CATOE/The Lancaster News
This healthy dog arrived at the shelter three months ago, emaciated and filled with parasites. The shelter staff nursed it back to health.

‘Hardest decision’
Humans are not affected by the virus, and the shelter’s 25 cats are not involved in the outbreak. They live in a separate enclosure not infected with the virus.

Williams took a reporter to see the quarantined dogs this week.

He drove down a long gravel road, deep into the woods behind the shelter to a clearing where 20 temporary kennels were spread out. Tarps blocked the evening sun, and trees provided morning shade.

The dogs jumped and barked for attention, wanting to play. None of them appeared obviously sick.
“The hardest decision will be what to do with these 25 dogs,” Williams said. “Several veterinarians have said not to let them return to the shelter because they may still have the virus and possibly spread it. That don’t mean all of them are sick, but they may carry it.”
Some told the county to “eliminate the problem,” Williams said, but the staff is doing everything possible to avoid that.
“I don’t know what will be done,” he said. “I am not – I am not – making that decision. It will come from someone above me.”
Two options exist. One is euthanasia. The other is to keep the dogs quarantined until enough time passes to be sure they are disease-free.

The first option is easy and extreme, and Williams is resisting it.
Keeping the dogs alive would require painstaking, time-consuming work for an undetermined amount of time, but at least two more weeks. Every time staffers fed the dogs or cleaned the temporary kennels, they would have to disinfect their own bodies and change into clean clothes before going into the animal shelter. That would be difficult for a facility with just two full-time employees and one part-timer.
The decision hinges on the advice from veterinarians and specialists who are analyzing results from an autopsy completed Thursday.

Shelter too small
The respiratory virus that forced the shutdown highlights the Lancaster shelter’s biggest shortcoming – it’s too small.
Larger shelters are able to contain and isolate infected dogs without having to orchestrate the measures taken by Lancaster’s shelter, according to Williams.
“When a facility with 100 runs has an outbreak, they can quarantine within the shelter itself,” Williams said. “We are just too small.”
Lancaster’s shelter has just 24 dog runs, often doubled-up because of overcrowding.
Three weeks into the outbreak, the shelter still does not know what the virus is. Distemper, a common respiratory illness, is a possibility.
In the beginning, just a few dogs were exhibiting symptoms.
The mystery was complicated because the first dog that got sick was weakened with heartworms and had little strength to fight any additional illness. Test results came back inconclusive, but indicated the dog had an unidentified, secondary disease.
“We didn’t know what we were dealing with,” Williams said.
The shelter has been consulting various veterinarians, experts at the Clemson Extension Service, and a specialist, Dr. Cynda Crawford at the University of Florida.

4 fatalities so far
Four dogs have died, according to County Administrator Steve Willis.
“Of the four dogs that have died, only one has tested positive for distemper,” Willis said. “All were positive with a respiratory disease.”
Willis said it is possible that the dog that tested positive came in with distemper rather than catching it at the shelter.
“It can take a few weeks for symptoms to show up,” Willis said.
Two weeks ago, with the disease spreading, the staff quarantined the 25 sheltered dogs and administered antibiotics to those exhibiting symptoms.
The shelter borrowed an enclosed kennel trailer and cages from Sandy Crest, Chesterfield County’s shelter. Rescue groups offered some relief, but the fear of spreading the disease to their dogs kept many away.
The shelter hired ServPro, professional cleaners, to sanitize and fumigate the facility. They sealed the cracked floors and applied an epoxy coating. Cleaning and sanitizing should be completed this week, at a cost of about $600.
Repairing and sealing the cracked floors was the most expensive fix. It cost $11,000. County council gave the nod to go ahead and will pick up the tab, Willis said.
Council members had hoped to avoid extra costs on the old shelter, since the plan is to build a new one in 2018.
“If something like this happens again, the county will have a quarantine unit, totally separate from the shelter, at their disposal,” Willis said.

Reopening shelter
This week, the shelter’s desks, tables, bulletin boards, trash cans and shelves were spread out in the parking lot, covered with tarps. Phones and computers were not hooked up. The dog runs were empty, but the floors were clean, shiny and sealed.
Williams said he hopes to reopen the office and restock storage areas in the next week. The kennels, since they have been animal-free for two weeks, should be germ-free and safe.
Until the shelter reopens, Sandy Crest will accept any dogs picked up by animal control.
Williams said the shelter should reopen this week for new animals. The fate of the 25 quarantined dogs remains undecided. The analysis of the autopsy results should be in by Monday.
“If at all possible, we will keep non-symptomatic animals, continue the antibiotic regime and bring them back in to the shelter,” Willis said. “But, if the vets say the only way to stop the contagion is to euthanize, then our hands are tied and we would have to euthanize.”

<div class="source">MANDY CATOE/The Lancaster News</div><div class="image-desc">The healthy dog at left was skin and bones (next photo) on the day she arrived at the shelter following a drug bust. She is one of the dogs currently quarantined.</div><div class="buy-pic"><a href="/photo_select/60724">Buy this photo</a></div>
<div class="source">PHOTO SUPPLIED</div><div class="image-desc">The healthy dog in the previous photo was skin and bones on the day she arrived at the shelter following a drug bust. She is one of the dogs currently quarantined.</div><div class="buy-pic"></div>The healthy dog at left was skin and bones (next photo) on the day she arrived at the shelter following a drug bust. She is one of the dogs currently quarantined.

Follow Reporter Mandy Catoe on Twitter @MandyCatoeTLN or contact her at (803) 283-1152.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


The Lancaster News
Article By Mandy Catoe

Animal lovers raised $13,000 at The Ivy Place on Sunday in a fundraiser sponsored by the Sun City group Lancaster Animal Shelter Supporters.  More than 250 people attended the event, including county council members Larry Honeycutt, Terry Graham and Billy Mosteller.

Arlene McCarthy, LASS president, and cofounder Sue White shared the story of the group and how it grew in four years from two concerned women to a community of activism and inspiration.  “We started out bringing food and supplies to the shelter, and now county council members are stepping up to the plate,” White said.

McCarthy listed LASS’s many improvements at the county animal shelter, including convincing county council to hire additional shelter staff, painting the offices, buying a new washer and dryer, raising$17,500 to buy seven additional kennels and purchasing a professional-grade microscope to test for parasites.  
She thanked the attendees for their generosity and support and said LASS could do even more with more volunteers and a new animal shelter.

5th District Republican Party  candidate Ralph Norman also attended.  “I’m here to support a great cause,” he said. “We have always owned animals – cat, dogs, horses and cows - for as long as I can remember.  When I heard about it, I said ‘I have got to come to this.’”  Lancaster County Animal Shelter Director Alan Williams attended and was pleased to see all the support.  
“The more awareness it brings, the better off we will be,” he said. “I think as more people see what we are dealing with, they will help us out.”

Nutramax gave $500. Kristen Blanchard, vice president of external corporate affairs, and her husband, Jim, added an extra $250.

Mike Pogue, of Team Pogue, a Panhandle-based real estate agency, gathered donations during the event and agreed to match the total, which should add up to another $1,000.

McCarthy introduced Honeycutt, who made closing remarks.  “His invaluable support has allowed us to do all the things we are trying to do for the Lancaster Animal Shelter,” McCarthy said. “He has listened to us. He has heard us complain, and he has garnered support from other members of the council.”  Honeycutt said LASS taught him that the animal shelter is a reflection of the community it serves. In the the past, Honeycutt has called conditions at the shelter “deplorable.” 
“Dogs and cats have been put on this earth for a reason,” he said. “We must all join LASS to make sure they are taken care of. That is what God has chosen for us to do.”
He said the county will soon have land for a new shelter, and he predicted the new facility will open next year.  “Ladies and gentlemen, we will have a new animal shelter,” he said.

Contributions to LASS are tax-deductible. Donations can be sent to LASS, 51037 Arrieta Court, Indian Land, SC 29707. Call Diane Rashall at (704) 576-5674 with any questions.


On the heels of LASS' very successful fundraiser for the shelter and the exciting announcement of plans for a new shelter by Councilman Larry Honeycutt, sad news is being reported by Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis regarding the ongoing problem of an unknown virus at the shelter.  The shelter is currently shut down and a quarantine is in place.  
Below are reports by various news sources.

Article by Mandy Catoe
The Lancaster News

Unknown virus shuts down animal shelter

WCNC on Shelter

From CN2 news on shelter

NEWS: Lancaster County officials say the Lancaster County Animal Shelter is closing its doors for now for intake of any animals after a respiratory virus outbreak. See official information below.
Based upon veterinarian advice, we are closing the Lancaster Animal Shelter for intake of any animals. We have been working for about two weeks to contain a respiratory virus outbreak. All animals have been placed in outside pens during a disinfection process as well as been treated with antibiotics. Despite these steps, new cases have continued so whatever we are dealing with involves animal to animal transmission and is not related to a particular location. We are awaiting further medical testing to see what next steps the vets advise.
This means that we will be unable to respond to stray animal complaints for the next few weeks. We regret the inconvenience but must contain the virus to protect future animals that come into the shelter.

We will have more information once we have the test results.
Lancaster Animal Shelter closed after virus kills 2 animals

Monday, May 8, 2017


Thanks to all who came to support the animals of Lancaster County at our fundraiser luncheon and fashion show yesterday! The event was a huge success and we were thrilled by the announcement by Councilman Larry Honeycutt that a new shelter will be in the 2018 budget! He announced that two parcels are being looked at and an architect has been contacted to begin plans.