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Deadly Canine Distemper Hits Exotic Feline Rescue Center

Tiger

The Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Clay County is dealing with a canine distemper outbreak that’s killed seven animals. The virus is almost always fatal in big cats.

Canine distemper is most common among dogs, although most are vaccinated against the virus as puppies. The problem is the vaccine is species specific.

"The vaccines are not particularly effective on big cats and the vaccines can of themselves give the animal this disease," says Exotic Feline Rescue Founder Joe Taft.

Taft says tigers or lions that show symptoms of canine distemper are immediately pulled out of the general population to prevent the virus from spreading. He says there's at least one cat that's still at high risk for the virus.

"The whole staff here -- especially the keeper’s staff -- we’re all under a very dark cloud right now," he says.

Raccoons can also carry the virus and Taft thinks that’s what started the outbreak.

"We did just found a sick raccoon," he says. "It’s gone to the University of Illinois where they’re going to be doing a lot of testing on it."

Canine distemper doesn’t affect humans, so the Exotic Feline Rescue Center remains open for tours.

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