Shelter director reflects on changes since distemper outbreak

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — It has been four months since almost 100 dogs were put down at the Franklin County Dog Shelter.

Franklin County Dog Shelter Director Don Winstel has reflected about his decisions and the shelter’s actions during the September distemper outbreak. He says, “In hindsight, I can’t think of too many things in my life that I’ve done that I probably wouldn’t do better the second time.”

A number of changes have since been instituted at the shelter to decrease the chance of a future outbreak.  Winstel explains, “It’s just like a daycare here. When you get a cold and the sniffle, it just goes through everybody.”

Now, All dogs are vaccinated immediately.  Each new group of dogs is held together in the same ward for the first four or five days to prevent any illness from spreading shelter-wide.  After this period, dogs are mixed with a larger population.

Individual dog stalls have always been cleaned each day.  Now, as part of the “all in, all out” initiative, entire wards (a large room with several kennels) are sanitized before the next group of dogs moves in.  Winstel adds, “This gives us the opportunity to do that on an even larger scale, on the entire ward and let that sit for a day without any dogs in it.”

Winstel says dogs are also now also being moved out of the shelter at a much faster rate.  He credits central Ohio rescues for a lot of help with this endeavor.  He says the frayed relationship between the shelter and area rescues is not perfect, but it they continue to improve that relationship and work together in the best interest of the dogs, “I will say we all love dogs very much. We do manage to find that common ground for sure to save as many dogs as we can.”

Winstel says he expects veterinary consultants to further analyze shelter decisions and actions in the coming months.  Winstel told NBC4 he looks forward to that analysis and hopes it helps the shelter in the future. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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