First, it was parvovirus being reported at the Warwick City Park Dog Park, and now a distemper outbreak in Warwick and Jamestown has pet owners understandably concerned.

But how does an outbreak like this happen when a simple vaccination can do the trick to keep your animal safe?

According to a release from the DEM, a number of skunks and raccoons have tested positive for the virus. 

Distemper is a potentially fatal disease that attacks the gastrointestinal, respiratory, and nervous systems of dogs, according to the DEM.

Dr. Adrianna Spinella with Warwick Animal hospital said she typically sees a few cases of distemper every year, usually in young pups that are new to families.

"It is usually a new puppy to the family and usually puppies that go to dog parks have a very risk of being exposed to things like that as well," Spinella said. "We haven't seen many cases of distemper yet. However, we do typically see a couple of cases a year at least."

Dr. Spinella said it's hard to determine where a specific outbreak is linked to, as distemper is also linked to other canine species such as coyotes.

When looking at a pet dog, some possible culprits are pet shops, irresponsible private breeders, and even some rescues that get their dogs from southern states.

"More of the popular adoption clinics taking dogs from the south up to the northern states. That's definitely a suspicious route of exposure, however, it's very hard to nail down," Spinella said.

Dr. Spinella said that from what she sees, rescues in the area do a "very good job" at vetting dogs before taking them in.

Joe Warzycha is the Executive Director of the RISPCA who said that shelters and rescues follow strict protocols from the state, including a mandatory five-day quarantine, to make sure animals they receive are not infected with any kind of illness.

Warzycha said before the animals the RISPCA receive even arrive in the state, they are all vaccinated for rabies, which is required by law, as well as vaccines for distemper and parvovirus.

"You have to be very responsible about it. The protocols are in place to prevent disease outbreak an spread. They're there for a reason," he said.

In his ten years with the organization, Warzycha said he has yet to see any distemper, but he said there have been rescues the RISPCA had to investigate that didn't follow required protocols.

"I can tell you in my time here we have been involved in a handful of complaints involving rescues that have brought in dogs without following proper protocols," he said. "We don't hear about the ones doing it responsibly because there are no issues."