An increase in cases of the canine distemper virus has prompted the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to say it won’t be able to accept any dogs while it cleans and sanitizes its shelter.

Canine distemper is a highly contagious and deadly virus.

Teresa Truelsen, associate director of marketing at the Humane Society, said the disease is preventable with vaccination.

“It is so important to start that...process as early as possible," she said. "Because that’s the only way to prevent it. There is no medical cure for distemper once it has been contracted.”

Several litters of puppies infected with the virus were brought to the shelter over the last several weeks. Once infected, dogs must be put to sleep.

The Humane Society is testing its dogs for distemper and sending them to other locations while facilities are cleaned.

It will start accepting dogs again on June 23. In the meantime, Truelsen said stray dogs should be taken to the Pima County Animal Care Center.

The Humane Society remains open, and cats and dogs are still available for adoption.

The organization is offering free vaccinations against distemper at its clinics through July.