A moderator on Canyon Lake Animal Shelter’s Facebook page Thursday announced the Startzville facility will close for 10 days due to a distemper outbreak and blamed a one-year-old female Australian Shepherd mix named Sharlene, pulled from a Bastrop shelter, for bringing the virus into the facility.
The announcement came after weeks of heated Facebook and Nextdoor discussion about the growing numbers of dogs adopted from the nonprofit Canyon Lake Animal Shelter (CLASS) who are dying almost immediately afterward from highly contagious yet completely preventable viruses like distemper and parvovirus.
Also Thursday, CLASS announced that several puppies who were owner-surrenders had tested positive for parvo.
Vets routinely vaccinate puppies and dogs against these viruses, and animal shelters like CLASS are responsible for fully vetting each and every animal they take in, Humane Society of the New Braunfels Area (HSNBA) Director Sarah Hammond told MyCanyonLake.com last summer.
In a text today, she said she’s horrified by what she’s hearing from fosters and adopters who have lost dogs through CLASS’ alleged negligence.
“Pulling animals from poorly funded shelters and not immediately isolating and vaccinating them is terribly irresponsible,” she said. “Closing intake is the most responsible thing they have done in a long time. I’m praying for all these dogs and the people who love them. Any dog that has spent even one hour in that shelter in the last three months is at risk of having, carrying and spreading distemper. Please make sure your dogs’ shots are up to date. With all of these sick dogs being scattered all over our area, this is only going to get worse. Protect your pets, people.”
In a June 2, 2022 article titled ‘Parvo Pups and Disappearing Dogs: What’s Happening at Canyon Lake’s Animal Shelter?’ MyCanyonLake.com reported on claims that dogs were sitting in feces-filled kennels, being adopted out without adequate vetting, that record-keeping was non-existent, vaccination schedules were spotty, and animals were not always spayed or neutered. Microchipping seemed optional.
After that article appeared, things improved, at least for CLASS President Darrell Mayfield and his wife Kelly Mayfield, who is vice president and the public face of the organization.
A popular local Facebook page administrator backed CLASS, along with a well-respected animal rescuer. Donations from prominent community organizations continued. The Mayfields upped their game on Facebook, answering questions and concerns but also allegedly deleting comments from anyone who crossed them or questioned procedures.
But other local animal advocates continued to ask why the shelter, which is privately funded and not legally required to accept Canyon Lake dogs-in-need, continued to cry poor while taking hundreds of animals in from around the state even as HSNBA euthanized due to overcrowding.
Now, owners of dead CLASS dogs are demanding answers, too. Several say they spent thousands of dollars trying to save the animals they’d grown to love deeply, even if only for a few short days or weeks.
Or, as in Sharlene’s case, a few hours.
Canyon Lake resident Joan Elrod adopted Sharlene, the one-year-old Australian shepherd mix featured in CLASS’s Facebook post, around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
By that evening, the dog, which left CLASS with yellow mucus around its nose, a sign of deadly distemper that Elrod did not know about, was getting sicker. Other symptoms of distemper include fever, coughing, lethargy, reduced appetite and vomiting, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
By 10 a.m. Thursday, Sharlene was so ill that Elrod took her to a Canyon Lake veterinarian, who told her he sees a lot of sick dogs from CLASS.
The vet gave Sharlene a 50% chance of survival and prescribed an antibiotic, albuterol and Pedialyte mixed with water.
By Thursday evening Elrod was using a syringe to coax liquids down Sharlene’s throat and a nebulizer to mist medicine into the pet’s lungs.
As she struggles to keep Sharlene alive, she said she’s tired – and angry – that CLASS, where she once volunteered to walk dogs years ago, allowed the dog to be adopted in the first place.
“It’s just really sad, but we have her, and she’s not going to be alone if it is the end of her life,” Elrod said, adding this isn’t the first time she’s adopted a dog with a death sentence from CLASS.
Six months ago, only vaguely aware of rumors swirling about CLASS, she adopted a German Shepherd named Lt. Dan, who she renamed Sarge.
When Elrod took Sarge for his first examination at the vet, the vet tech hugged the dog joyously and then frowned. Sarge had a heart murmur so pronounced she could feel it. The wellness check expanded into a complete workup.
The prognosis was bleak.
Sarge lived another glorious six months anyway with Elrod and her 10-year-old daughter, who now faces the potential loss of a second dog in less than a year.
“That’s a lot of grief for a little girl, “Elrod said.
As they brace for the worst, Elrod said she’s very concerned about the well-being of her three other senior dogs. Although vaccinated, they’re still at risk of contracting distemper.
On Thursday’s Facebook post, CLASS said Sharlene arrived from Bastrop County Animal Services fully vaccinated on Jan. 6.
“Today, her adopter took her to the vet for a wellness exam and suspects that she may have distemper for which they tested for,” CLASS said. “We will know the results by Monday. Sharlene was with us for over two weeks and never exhibited any signs of distemper…we are praying that it isn’t distemper.”
Bastrop County Animal Services closed on Jan. 7 after positive test results for distemper related to some of the animals in the shelter population.
“Kelly said she didn’t know when she took Sharlene in,” Elrod said.
As of 10 a.m. today, Sharlene is still alive.
April Ferrell, who adopted Clyde from CLASS and had to euthanize him after a six-week battle with distemper, was disgusted by CLASS’ Facebook post about Sharlene.
“Do not use this poor pup as your excuse for your shelter having distemper,” she responded. “Your shelter has been adopting out very sick puppies for a very long time. Go to Nextdoor and read some of our stories that actually were posted these last few days. That is wrong for you to blame this puppy. I had to put my puppy down this past Saturday a.m. because he had been so sick. I got him on Dec. 2 from your shelter. Along with other people that adopted animals from there way before this pup came here.”
In an interview, Ferrell said she fell in love with Clyde, who was returned to CLASS by a previous adopter who found him “too small” at 2½ pounds.
She posted this account of what happened next on Nextdoor:
“I know there have been posts about Canyon Lake Animal Shelter. We all want to be able to adopt the animals from this shelter. That’s why others and I went there to adopt our pet.
“But have you noticed all the people on here that have lost the pet they have adopted for being so sick, and the ones that have their pet still struggling with their health? That is not ok, and it is not just a few. It is a lot of people, and there is something very wrong with what is happening, not to mention the pain the animals are going through and the heartbreak our families are going through. It is wrong.
“These animals are not getting the treatments they are supposed to be getting. I want this shelter to be a thriving shelter with healthy animals. Our community needs this shelter. These animals need it. It has been here for many, many years, and we have adopted from here before, but it has to have healthy animals.
“Please, read our stories, and hopefully, you can see why we are so upset. We wanted to share our story about Clyde (Bingo at the shelter). We adopted a tiny little chihuahua mix weighing 2.6 on Dec. 2, 2022, that had just been returned from the previous couple who said they were returning him because he was too small. Sweetest little guy.
“I took him to Tractor Supply to get a bed and food for him, and there was a vet on site, so I asked them to check him out. We did not have any information on him, so I called the director and told her that the lady I picked him up from told me she didn’t think he had his shots because he was too small, she (Kelly) was rude and said no she didn’t tell you that, and I told her well, yes, actually she did.
“I handed the phone to the vet, and she was rude to the vet as well. The vet did give him a shot just in case he had worms. Kelly then texted me a picture of a ‘cage card’ the next day with dates of when they say he received shots.
“I noticed a couple of places on the bottom of the page with the date Dec. 3, 2022. I picked him up on Dec. 2, 2022.
“About a week or so later, he started having diarrhea, which I thought he had just eaten something outside. I treated it, and it stopped for a few days. It started again a few days later, and I took him to the vet. He tested negative for parvo, and they gave him some meds and said it could be stress. It stopped.
“About five days later, he started having small seizures. Took him to my vet. He tested positive for coccidia. Put on meds, and no more seizures. Two days later, he was showing signs of neurological issues, so I took him to Bluepearl and they said he most likely has distemper, but the test takes 3-4 days. This was on a Thursday. I contacted a vet in Houston that has a serum to treat distemper, and they overnighted it to my vet and he got his first of three shots on Saturday a.m. and then 12 hours apart for each of the other two.
“I also took him to a vet closer to me to get something in the meantime to help with the tremors while waiting for the serum. On Monday, the test came back negative. The serum would not hurt him even if he didn’t have it. I had him at the vet two other times after that to help with all the symptoms. We all did everything we could possibly do to treat my little guy.
“We did a stool sample again, and it came back for a second time since being with us that he had worms and coccidia again. So we started him on more medicine. During the days, he seemed like he was getting better, and then during the nights, he would be so uncomfortable and irritable.
“I held him every night and all night long for hours, thinking we just needed to give the medicine time to work. Then the day would come he would be ok. That day did not come. He started crying so badly early this past Saturday a.m. I couldn’t stand to see him suffer. I drove into San Antonio to a vet at 3 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2023, to let him go. My heart broke, and it was the first time in several weeks his little body didn’t tremble. For those of you who want to get mad at us for wanting to share our stories, don’t reply. We are all wanting everyone to know so it can stop.
At 3 a.m. on Jan. 14, she put Clyde down.
On Wednesday, Ferrell said she awakened and found Kai’s pillow on her bed.
“This little dog just broke my heart,” she said. “I’ve cried every day because of it.”
Six weeks after her husband’s Yorkie died, Canyon Lake resident Kathy Perkins decided to get him a new dog. After searching on Petfinder, she thought she’d found a replacement, but the dog was gone when she arrived.
Instead, she discovered the perfect dog, a pug mix named Simon, that she renamed Reggie. CLASS said he was roughly ten weeks old at the time of his adoption on Dec. 18. He was not vaccinated.
While she may not have understood puppy vaccination schedules, Perkins said other warning signs were obvious.
Three to four puppies were in a gated area, and as Perkins turned to look at them, she was told, “We don’t know what’s going on with them.”
There were animal feces all over the floor.
Perkins said someone explained that the mess was due to a nursing mother who kept hopping out of her crate to poop at night.
Two days later, Reggie started getting sick. Perkins thought it might be stress, but he worsened over the weekend.
When she arrived at her vet, she was asked to wait in the parking lot with Reggie, who was tested for parvo. Within five minutes, she said the results were positive.
The dog spent his next three days in an isolation area, receiving antibiotics and fluids.
“And once his antibiotics were finished, he started coughing first, then came the ticks –- and lots of them, short seizures that is when we took him to the vet again, and he had nose discharge,” Perkins said.
This time another diagnosis was made — distemper. The vet started Reggie on a different antibiotic and gave Perkins Valium to use if they couldn’t stop the seizures.
She said her heart continues to break “more and more.”
“He was a puggle,” Perkins said. “And he was a daddy’s boy. He listened so well for being so young. He came out in the kitchen when we were cooking, and he would sit there and watch him. We have a five-year-old Yorkie. They got along famously playing tuggie and the kissy-face game.”
The Yorkie –- and her husband –- are now devastated.
“My husband needed him more than she did,” Perkins said.
Vet bills for Reggie were a little over $1,000. His adoption fee was $75 instead of $350 because Perkins opted to take him to her own vet for spaying.
She said a week before Reggie’s death, CLASS asked the public for donations of bleach. “One of the things that kill parvo and distemper,” Perkins said.
Adrienne Bebow wanted a dog for her elderly father, who lost his wife (her mother) in October.
“I thought having a small dog to sit on in his lap would help him mourn,” she said in an email.
Bebow hopes to make some sense of her loss by sharing Bonni’s story as a cautionary tale for others who might be interested in adopting from the shelter.
She said fell in love with a dog in the photo of a CLASS dog in foster care. Bebow was worried that the little dog would have to go back into the shelter since it did not get adopted before Christmas and decided to bring Bonni home to her house.
“I fell in love with a photo of a dog on Facebook…The shelter was too overwhelmed over the holiday. Immediately, I saw that photo and fell in love. I would visit the new dog, which we named Bonni, daily until she was transferred to foster in my care on Dec. 30.
“This is the day Bonni came to my house. She lived the best eight days of her life. I know that.
“On Saturday, Jan. 8, they told me to come back to the shelter and bring Bonni, that she would be getting her rabies vaccination and heartworm tested. I guess this should have been done before even being turned over to a foster family. The dogs were not vetted.
“My mistake, I took her inside to show the shelter ladies how big she was getting. She was just five pounds when in foster care and extremely malnourished. I was happy to show them in the eight days I had her, she put a pound on. I was the beaming fur mom.
“Little did I know, my dog would end up getting sick. That day, Bonni caught distemper. I was told she was vaccinated on Dec. 30. I have the paperwork, but I did not take her, so I did not see her get the shots. But she was malnourished, and I knew that, so the only thing I can think of is the vaccine didn’t work on her fragile little body. Or did she have it?
“I reflect on the day (that) Saturday, walking into the shelter, noticing how disgusting and dirty it is, dogs sharing small cages, the disgusting smell of feces. One of the volunteers had a bucket of feces mixed with water, took it out the front door and dumped it in the grass.
“I got my voucher, and we waited for the mobile van to come to administer her rabies shot. I was afraid to put her on the ground, but I did close to the street, so she could stand and go potty. I even have a text message telling my dad that this place is a s–t hole. I verbally told my dad and my husband that I did not want to bring her back there to get her spayed, so we could finish the adoption process and that it actually might be safer to bring her to our vet and pay full price for the spay. I didn’t want my Bonni back there. I have never seen a shelter this overcrowded and so filthy and smelly in my life.
“Come Sunday, she was lethargic. I thought she was just tired because she had the rabies vaccine. She went from a dog who was literally scarfing down food under 30 seconds because she was malnourished, to a dog who did not want to eat.
“I kept a close eye on her and decided Tuesday morning I would take her to the vet. After noticing she had diarrhea with blood in it, the vet gave her some IVs, and some medication, (she) was anemic and prescribed medicine, treated for a tummy infection, and put her on a probiotic.
“As soon as I got home, she started having shaking seizures…the dog actually keeps shaking its head. I took her back to the vet on Wednesday, they tested her for distemper. Thursday, we decided to try another medication for seizures. She just kept declining, she would pace around the room, not drink, and was having four to five seizures in an hour. So the anti-seizure medicine did help with that, except she developed tic movements.
“She was getting worse. The movements never stopped. Around 6 p.m. Thursday, she was unresponsive pretty much. If I woke her up, she would look at me for five seconds and lay back down.
“At that time, I made the decision that she needed to be euthanized. At first, the shelter told me I had to bring her back to the shelter Friday morning because it was cheaper for her to do it at the vet they use. I proceeded to tell him that was inhumane to make her suffer another 12 hours.
“When (Kelly’s) husband decided he did not want the dog back because of the infection, they gave us the go-ahead to take her to the emergency vet and have her put to sleep. Around 8 p.m. Thursday night, Bonni passed away and is no longer in pain and suffering.
“I cry for her. I have not slept in the past six days. No dog should suffer like this. I hope that I was giving her the best life she had and deserved.
“I’ve come to think that the eight happy days she wasn’t sick were the best of her life. She enjoyed people, food, and other dogs playing in my home – who are up-to-date on their shot and experiencing no signs of distemper.”
Leanne Nelson, founder of the popular Comal County Lost and Found Dogs Facebook page, said, based on descriptions, the “volunteer” who dumped poop in front of the shelter is Darrell Mayfield.
“I hope people let that sink in,” she said. “Poop, distemper poop, was being disposed of out of the front of the shelter. They have no business being there. Those poor suffering animals.”
Kelly Mayfield did not immediately respond to messages left on her cell phone and at CLASS or to a request for comment on Facebook Messenger.
Nobody’s sure where she is at the moment, and few are willing to knock on the shelter’s door for fear of picking up the viruses on their shoes or clothing.
Elrod said Kelly Mayfield told her she’s had a death in the family and is unavailable.
On Facebook, in a post that has since been deleted, Mayfield said was headed to South Carolina and joked she was bound to pick up some bulldogs for the shelter.
Based on the number of bulldogs posted on Facebook, it’s a breed Mayfield seems to prefer.
On Instagram several days ago, Mayfield also said she was headed to Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Comal County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Jennifer Smith did not immediately respond to an email asking for Animal Control’s reaction to the closure. According to records obtained last year and reported in the June 2 news article, ACO officers have made many trips to the shelter.
It is unclear what next steps the Mayfields will take over the coming week to improve the quality of life for the numerous cats and dogs under their care.
Today someone at CLASS posted a photo of a five-month-old Pyrenees puppy suffering from Demodex mange.
“Demodex is not contagious to other dogs, however Baby is very itchy and uncomfortable,” the post said. After visiting with the vet yesterday, he will be recovering in our isolation area.”