AUGUSTA – Animal welfare officials are warning people not to adopt a dog or cat that came from out of state, unless it is from a reputable adoption group.

The state’s Animal Welfare Program announced this week that more dogs and cats have been coming to Maine with diseases such as parvovirus, canine distemper and heartworm.

Owners should make sure their pets are current on vaccinations to make sure they don’t catch one of the diseases, which are usually transmitted by insects, program director Norma Worley said.

“A lot of dogs don’t get their vaccinations, so they have no immunity,” Worley said.

Distemper, a viral disease, has emerged in recent years after being absent in the state for decades, Worley said.

Brunswick veterinarian Anne Del Borgo, president of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association, could not quantify the increase beyond saying that it is significant. She said all pet owners should be concerned to some degree, but especially new adopters.

By law, all imported pets must be quarantined and vaccinated before going to new homes, Worley said. This is something that is taken care of by adoption groups and humane societies.

Recently there have been more adoptions going on in parking lots and through unlicensed adoption agents. Worley said part of this is due to dogs and cats being brought up from the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, but also because of services such as PetFinder, an online database that allows people to search nationwide for specific breeds available for adoption.

“I really believe people are going down and bringing up van loads,” Worley said. The transactions aren’t traceable because they “only accept cash payments.”

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