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Deadly Disease Strikes Exotic Animal Sanctuary

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Brian New
Brian joined the CBS 11 News team in 2013 after working a...
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WYLIE (CBSDFW.COM) - An outbreak of a deadly disease has struck a North Texas exotic animal sanctuary.

Canine distemper is typically thought of as a threat to dogs, but in Wylie the disease has infected 23 large exotic cats.

Vicky Keahey, the owner of In-Sync Exotics, said her veterinarians had recommended she not vaccinate her more than 60 tigers and lions for canine distemper.  She said she was told by several animal professionals her tigers and lions were not at risk for the disease.

This has made the outbreak at her sanctuary all the more surprising and painful.

“It’s really tough, said an emotional Keahey. “ I go to bed at night and pray to God to let us get through another day without anyone dying.

Last month, workers at the sanctuary said they spotted what appeared to be an infected raccoon near the cages.

A white Siberian tiger was the first with symptoms.  It started with a congested noise then later he suffered a seizure.

More than half of the 61 large cats at rescue center have been exposed to the disease and a third have tested positive.

Keahey brought in a team of distemper experts to treat the cats.

One of the veterinarians told CBS 11 News he believes at least 60% of the infected cats will make a full recovery with treatment.

Keahey is holding out hope for all of them.

She said she hopes other animal owners will see what she has to go through and make sure their animals are vaccinated.

“Get it done,” she said. “Do it because if you don’t your animal is going to die.”

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