The Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter is closed to the public and experiencing a crisis on several fronts after a deadly virus infected dogs there this week and their air-conditioning failed.

The Shelter announced the infections this weekend and said they have confirmed two cases of canine distemper within the shelter - a very contagious, often fatal respiratory disease that can rapidly move through a shelter population.

Widespread testing is difficult and time-consuming, but the shelter staff is responding under the assumption that other dogs are sick, too.

As a result, they are closed to the public for adoptions for a minimum of two weeks - healthy animals are leaving the shelter when possible to be temporarily placed in a foster home. Canines that are sick with minor symptoms are separated from the healthy population and monitored, and those who do not improve or worsen and present classic symptoms of distemper are being euthanized.

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To make matter worse, two air-conditioning units at the shelter failed against sweltering heat this week, raising temperatures inside the building close to 100 degrees and worsening issues with foul odors there.

For at least two weeks, the shelter is not allowing adoptions so the distemper is not spread into homes with new pets. They are also asking the public to neither bring in nor report strays for the time being because any incoming dog is at risk of infection.

"This precautionary measure is necessary to prevent the further spread of the virus and allow our team to focus on the care and treatment of affected animals," they said. "As we work through the process of deep cleaning, we will update the public on how we intend to proceed with cat adoptions."

"We are committed to resolving this matter as quickly and safely as possible," TMAS said. "We understand the impact these measures will have on our community, but we need to keep as many animals out of the shelter as we can. We appreciate the public's cooperation and understanding. Every action and effort made by residents of our community significantly contributes to the overall welfare of our animal population and the safety of our community."

At a Tuesday briefing of the Tuscaloosa City Council, Mayor Walt Maddox and council president Kip Tyner said the council, the county commission and the government in Northport will likely be asked to assist the shelter financially, both in the short-term and for long-term, major renovation.

Those asks are likely to include a new roof, a new crematorium for deceased animals, and new concrete floors throughout the building - Tyner said urine and other waste is infiltrating cracking in the existing floor and making odor control impossible. The shelter will also likely need a new commercial air conditioning system.

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