The Rhode Island DEM has announced that a distemper outbreak was reported in Warwick and Jamestown, which could mean an increased risk for pet dogs in that area.

The agency said it acted on alerts from the Jamestown and Warwick Police Departments after a high number of raccoons and skunks were apparently infected with distemper, and the DEM is reminding pet owners to get their dogs vaccinations up to date.

"Because the distemper vaccination is not required by law as opposed to the rabies vaccination, which is mandatory, it is likely that many pet dogs in Rhode Island are not vaccinated against CDV," said DEM spokesperson Gail Mastrati through a release. "Wild animals are usually affected after being exposed to the virus from an infected dog."

Despite the outbreak and the warning, it did not stop the Warwick Animal Shelter from holding its 12th annual Dog Walk and Blessing at City Park Saturday, where dozens of dogs showed up to raise money for the shelter.

Ann Corvin is the shelter's director who said that if there was any concern, they would not be holding the event.

"If your dog is completely vaccinated against distemper it's minimal risk," she said. "What's concerning is we really haven't seen distemper in this area in the past few years."

Most dog owners at the event said they had very little concern, including Coventry resident Bill Carlow.

"It's a concern sure. You don't want to see something like that happen to your dog," Carlow said. "We're concerned. We're not going to let him drink out of utensils that other dogs have drunk out of."

The disease attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous system of dogs and it is almost always fatal without a vaccine, according to the DEM.

It is transmitted by air, through animal droppings, and by sharing food or water bowls.