MEDLEY (CBS4) – Most of the hundreds of dogs who risked euthanasia at the Miami-Dade Animal Shelter have been adopted, as the shelter continued to offer no-cost adoptions Sunday to move the dogs from a building infected with canine Distemper.

“It’s a great feeling because everybody’s coming out of here alive. That shows that everybody cares,” said Gi Tacao, who runs Gigi’s Rescue in Hialeah.

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Last week, Miami-Dade Animal Services stopped taking in new dogs because of a Distemper outbreak at their shelter facility at 7401 NW 74th Street. Shelter managers decided to sanitize the shelter but to do that, all of the dogs will have to be removed; those not adopted out may be euthanized.

As word spread of this action, hundreds of animals went to the shelter to adopt a dog. On the recommendation of Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Miami-Dade Animal Services has waived adoption fees through Sunday to encourage people to adopt the dogs. Those who have already adopted dogs under the emergency guidelines will be receiving a reimbursement.

As of Saturday night, more than 200 dogs and puppies had been adopted but 100 dogs, and 40 cats, were still waiting for new families. Many big dogs are being left behind. For example, pit bulls are illegal in Miami-Dade County. That means residents in Broward, Palm Beach, or Monroe counties would need to adopt the pit bulls at the shelter. Some dogs that were adopted are now back at the shelter because they have been coughing. Though, they are not necessarily suffering from Distemper disease, they may be put down if they are not adopted again quickly.

Spokeswoman Xiomara Mordcovich said they will get as many as they can to other rescue shelters or adopt them out. So far they have not imposed a deadline as to when they all have to be out.

“As always, our goal is to save all of them, but we need to make this shelter a healthier environment,” said Dr. Sara Pizano, Director of Miami-Dade Animal Services.

Animal services has also temporarily ceased providing some services including the rabies/microchip clinic, intake of adult dogs and puppies by the public, stray-dog pickup by animal control officers, owner-surrendered pets, and spay and neuter surgery for current shelter dogs. Services that will continue as normal include investigations, buying licenses, paying citations, lost and found, intake of cats, cat adoptions, spaying and neutering of cats and the mobile animal clinic spay and neuter program.

“There should be some sort of a back-up plan,” said dog owner Jorge Rodriguez, whose dog was one of the last to receive a rabies vaccine before the lockdown. “This should have been planned out.”

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If left untreated for Distemper, a canine disease akin to measles, the dogs could die.

Distemper is caused by an unidentified virus and characterized by lethargy, fever, inflammation of the mucous membranes, sensitivity to light and vomiting. Mordcovich said trying to control the spread of infectious diseases is a challenge for every open admission shelter. Many dogs and puppies are not vaccinated prior to entering shelters and are incubating viruses, such as Parvo and Distemper.

Distemper, in particular, has become endemic in the shelter and all dogs and puppies are ill or considered exposed and at risk. In Fiscal Year 2009-2010, 36,000 animals were abandoned at Animal Services, creating overcrowding and stressful conditions for the shelter pets, which leads to the spread of infectious diseases.

In response to the Miami-Dade outbreak, Broward County Animal Care and the Humane Society of Broward County announce that they are open for business as usual, but urge residents to take proper precautions.

Both canine distemper and the parvovirus (parvo) are contagious and often fatal diseases that strike the respiratory, gastro-intestanal and central nervous systems. The viruses can be avoided through proper vaccination, which should begin in puppies as young as six weeks and continue through adulthood with an annual booster shot, according to the Broward County Commission’s office.

Broward County pet owners with dogs are encouraged to take their pets to be examined and vaccinated in order to build up and maintain the body’s immunity to distemper and parvo. Vaccinations can be received at all licensed veterinarians in Broward County as well as the Humane Society of Broward County for a limited time in response to this situation.

Independent rescuers said they are in need of foster homes for the dogs. Because of the distemper disease, the dogs have to be separated from any other dogs in the foster home.

Anyone interested in temporarily housing a dog can reach the independent rescuers at 305-774-1184 or visit or .

To schedule an appointment only with the Humane Society of Broward County, call 954-266-6858.

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