One of the best things I ever did was adopt a dog from 4 paws. I adopted old Hank about a year ago and we've grown to be great buddies. Just like all good dogs, all is asks of me is that I feed and water him, take him outside for a little exercise and love him. I get a lot in return for that little effort.

When I get home from work in the afternoon, you'd think he hadn't seen me in years and now it's time for a happy reunion. Sometimes he gets so excited when I get home that he yelps. Now I have to tell you, I've had some great friends over the years, but not once did someone yelp because I walked in the house.

Well, there's a sad situation at  The Calcasieu Parish Animal Services and Adoption Center and, because of a distemper outbreak, the facility has suspended adoptions until further notice.

The viral disease is highly contagious among dogs that have not received vaccinations. Symptoms include sneezing, coughing, runny eyes and nose, fever, lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite.

"The staff at the center is isolating all dogs that may have been exposed to the diseased animals to prevent further infections. They are also limiting the number of new animals that they will accept into the center, and will be asking local veterinarians to assist in the quarantining of dogs that are normally housed there,"  said Tom Hoefer, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury spokesman.

Dr. Jamie Houston, the facility’s veterinarian,has sent samples from the suspected cases to a veterinary laboratory to confirm the diagnosis, and the staff is consulting with state experts to address the issue.

“We vaccinate all dogs upon entry into the facility” said Houston. “This will help prevent any new infections. We are also administering extra booster vaccinations to the dogs here.”

Nathan Areno, animal services and adoption center director, said he appreciates the public's patience while the department deals with this issue.

"The vaccination is extremely effective. All dog owners should make sure their pets have their shots up-to-date. We are dealing with this because an unvaccinated animal came into our facility carrying the disease," he said.

Canine distemper does not affect humans or domestic cats - cat adoptions are continuing at the center.

Dog adoptions will resume after it is clear that there are no new infections at the center.