COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Chanting “stop killing our dogs,” about 75 protesters outside the Franklin County administration building today promised to keep demanding information and answers about the mass euthanizing of dogs over the weekend.

Luke Westerman, a local philanthropist and animal rights activist urged the protesters to demand answers or resignations. “Only one dog is confirmed to have had distemper,” Westerman said. “So why did 52 other dogs have to die?”

At a Tuesday morning meeting of the Franklin County Commissioners, county administrator Kenneth Wilson said the number of dogs euthanized as a result of an outbreak of respiratory disease, including canine distemper, has risen from 52 to 60.

Commissioner John O’Grady said the situation has been difficult for the staff at the shelter. “Certainly, we are all heartbroken over what has happened and the hard work and the difficult work that’s going to continue,” O’Grady said. “So please going forward, if you you can keep in mind not only those animals but the employees at the animal care control center.”

Shelter officials have said a number of factors were considered in making the decision to euthanize each dog including the dog’s health history and condition, the animal’s likely ability to resist the disease and their ability to survive four to six weeks in quarantine.

Among those protesting today were representatives of animal rescue organizations including Julie Robert of Peace for Paws. “We have great relationships with veterinarians around town,”Robert said. “We would have stepped up to help manage the situation and work with them instead of euthanizing at least 52 dogs.”

In fact, Robert said Peace for Paws had foster homes ready to take two dogs last Friday, knowing the care they would need. But Robert says the shelter emailed Sunday saying the dogs had instead, been euthanized. “We had everything arranged,” Robert said. “Those dogs would be isolated from other dogs and,….yeah it’s a shame.”

The shelter says it is now making arrangements to move some of the more than 150 dogs still in quarantine into outside rescue situations that can provide the necessary arrangements.

Canine distemper is a highly contagious and often fatal virus. Shelter officials say a dog can be contagious for five days before showing any signs of the disease. Dogs believed to have been exposed need to remain quarantined for four to six weeks.