Ontario Shelter Manages Ringworm Outbreak with Death

A shelter in Ontario, Canada is pioneering a new treatment for pets with ringworm:  mass killing.  But let’s back up a second and look at this dastardly skin infection in pets.  There are oral medications, topical medications, a ringworm “vaccine” for cats which can be used in treatment and finally:

There have been several studies which showed that this fungal infection should eventually resolve on its own. Typically, this takes four months, a long time in a home environment for contamination to be occurring continuously. We recommend treatment for this infection rather than waiting for it to go away.

In summary, it’s a very annoying fungus to deal with and humans can contract the infection from pets.  But it is highly treatable and ultimately may go away on its own, even without treatment.  So under what circumstances would mass killing of shelter pets be appropriate?  If you are the Ontario SPCA, the answer would be – after trying once to get rid of the problem:

Approximately 350 dogs, cats, rats and other small animals—will be put down over the next two or three days after an attempt to contain the fungal infection failed, said the society’s chief executive officer Kate MacDonald. [bold=mine]


[…]MacDonald said the shelter has been fighting the outbreak for three weeks.

If you feel inclined to give the OSPCA the benefit of the doubt, feel free.  After all, maybe it was a really great “attempt” to treat the ringworm.  And maybe after their failure, they reached out to the community for help but no one was willing to help.  Or maybe not:

Leanne Tucker, a volunteer dog walker for nine years, said staff and volunteers were told of the mass euthanasia late Monday afternoon and asked to leave the premises.

“It’s horrible,” Tucker said. “There are people in the community who are willing to take these animals home and help them.”

So these 350 pets have been exposed to a highly treatable fungal infection and there are people in the community willing to help.  But OSPCA barrels on with the killings:

On Monday night, the shelter was under lockdown as Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officers went in and out of the building and emotional volunteers waited in the parking lot.

“This is unbelievable—how can they kill all the animals,” said one distraught woman who has been volunteering at the shelter for two years.

The OSPCA called police and hired a private security firm to monitor the shelter.

Two security guards from IGI Security sat in their SUVs at the entrance of the shelter Monday night.

“We have had some individuals declare that they might try to remove the animals,” MacDonald said.

Heaven forfend somebody try and actually save these evil ringworm pets.  By all means, call in the jackbooted thugs.

H/T:  One Bark at a Time

17 thoughts on “Ontario Shelter Manages Ringworm Outbreak with Death

  1. I’m ill about this .. will be writing something a little later once I marshall my thoughts. Now perhaps all those people who believe each and every word they uttered about the THS are rethinking. They are butchers – there is no other word for them – a corporate killing machine. There are NUMEROUS organizations, rescues, volunteers and community members more than willing to step up and help – to take in animals, deal with this VERY treatable infection and at a minimum, take the animals that are NOT infected (by their own admission, there are a fair number currently uninfected)- instead, they choose to slaughter the innocents.

    Those of us who were former volunteers at the THS are so thankful we got two of our dogs that ended up there OUT much earlier.

  2. This is ridiculous. The previous poster is absolutely correct; it’s no less than mass, inexusable butchery.

    Ringworm is a fungus that’s extremely similar to athlete’s foot. It’s unsightly and may itch a bit, but it’s not going to turn into cancer or anything else.

    If the staff butchers are worried about picking up ringworm themselves, they should nip down to Whole Foods and buy some tea tree oil. It’ll knock it out quickly.

    It’s like the OSPCS has decided to administer the death penalty en masse for jaywalking. Prevention of Cruelty, my ass.

  3. But but but..Ringworm is ICKY!

    no one should want/have to deal with something icky and contagious right?

    I mean, I HAD ringworm from a rescue cat once and and and I had to use CREAM. OMG the horror!

    Sorry, I can’t help but think that because ringworm has a stigma, they are taking the easy way out here. It is butchery. I deal with one or two ringworm infected dogs a year. It is SOOO hard to give them ketoconazole (which is cheap BTW) ONCE a day to clear it up.

    Ringworm is an annoyance. It is not fatal. It is not an impending public health disaster and in the real world, it does not even spread particularly fast.

    And from an economic standpoint prophylactic and therapeutic treatment should cost far less than the cost of private security and euthanasia.


  4. OK, I want to say right at the beginning that I am not defending what this shelter did. BUT..and it’s a big one…ringworm is not as easy to treat as people here are saying. I have dealt with it in a multiple animal situation. Sure, it MAY go away on it’s own completely untreated—in a single pet household that consists of a healthy adult animal with a normal immune system. In the meantime, ringworm is HIGHLY contagious. In a multiple animal situation, it can be very difficult to eliminate.

    In DOGS, the oral treatment (which is necessary if you are treating multiple animals) is reasonably inexpensive, and not particularly harmful unless the dog is very young (under 4 months), very old, sick, or has some underlying condition. That is NOT TRUE for cats–the cheapest oral meds (ketoconazole and griseofulvin) are toxic to cats and can cause life threatening anemias. The safest and most effective medication in cats–itraconazole–is quite expensive.

    In addition, the only disinfectant that works to actually kill fungus is 1:10 bleach solution. The environment must be kept pristine (no extraneous items like toys or newspapers or anything), and everything in the environment must be disinfected daily. Walls, floors, cracks, all bedding, bowls, etc.

    I have a multiple cat household (rescue) and a few years ago got a particularly bad infection that arrived with a litter of 8 week old kittens. I ended up getting the help of a boarded veterinary dermatologist to eliminate it–every cat in the house was cultured every 30 days (because there can be inapparent carriers), every cat was dipped once weekly, and every cat that cultured positive was placed on itraconazole (including a couple of carriers). Despite isolating the positives and carriers, and cleaning like you have never seen anyone clean before, it took me NINE MONTHS and over $4000 of my own money to completely eliminate the infection, during which time no animal went in or out of the house. Even my dog was cultured as a carrier (at least he was cheaper to treat). I had less than 20 cats in the house at the time.

    So, I can see where a shelter with limited resources *might* see the possibility of having to shut down for months and spend thousands of dollars treating this infection, and opt to take the easy way out. Seriously, I spent 8-10 hours every weekend just disinfecting my house and dipping cats, and at least an hour every day just medicating cats and cleaning up after them. I’ve never been so exhausted in my life. And I had hardwood floors and no central heat/air, so it shouldn’t have been that hard. I’m a vet tech and I have some experience treating animals.

    So, no, ringworm is NOT that easy to get rid of. Though I really do think the shelter should have tried harder.

    1. My feeling is this: Let’s go to the extreme and say ringworm is the most difficult fungal infection on the planet to get rid of. Even if that was the case, nobody is going to die from it and a shelter has an obligation IMO to treat the pets in its care. And when you toss in some help from the public – it’s an absolute no brainer to my way of thinking.

    2. It sounds like there were numerous offers to take animals out of the shelter for care. The shelter actually hired security to keep them all in.

      So why not reduce the population load by letting other rescues take on some pets?

      And even if the cat situation was severe enough to be considered dire, why kill all the more simply and cheaply treatable dogs?

      1. So, it’s OK if they kill all the cats as long as they save the dogs? Great, thanks.

        The reason they couldn’t just disperse all the animals willy-nilly is liability. Humans get ringworm, I’ve had it a couple of times–but because I am a healthy adult, it wasn’t a big deal to treat. Though if they could get a lawyer to write an ironclad release, it could be a possibility.

      2. No

        It’s not OK to kill any of the animals for a treatable disease.

        I was playing devils advocate and going along with your assertions that it is a greater challenge to treat in feline populatipnsto highlight the flaw in that logic for the shelter to kill everything

        As for liability, most other rescues are insured. I could see liability problems with transferring to private

  5. Cut off… to conclude

    ……homes but rescues and shelters transfer ill and sometimes contagious animals to better care situations all the time in many places without issue.

    I also do feral cat work. It’s not OK with me that ANY pets be killed for ringworm. Especially if help was declined.

  6. I just feel that it is irresponsible and bad practice to transfer sick animals or animals with communicable diseases to other situations without full disclosure and a signed release. At least the Veterinary community would find this irresponsible. Releasing these animals to rescue groups would be positive in that the caregivers would probably comprehend what they were in for–but would be problematic because it would put the rescues already existing animals at risk. Releasing to the general public would be better, because they are more likely to not have other animals put to risk–except that the general public is less likely to understand the full implications of taking a ringworm positive animal. If there are complications during treatment, who takes responsibility, and who gets blamed?

    Ideally, the shelter should have made the commitment to shut down and treat the problem as is. It’s just not that easy to just say “people volunteered to take them, so they should have dispersed a bunch animals with a communicable disease”. That could very well have become a nightmare for the shelter later.

  7. Ummm….it appears that the decision to kill all of the animals now is “a nightmare for the shelter” as well it should be. I believe that the animals should have been adopted or treated in shelter rather than being killed. Of course, their condition should have been disclosed to those taking the animals, whether they be rescues or adopters. I really don’t think that it is more difficult to supply a fact sheet on ringworm and its treatment and to counsel those taking the animals than it is to kill each and every one of them, but then again I think that it is easier to do just about anything than to kill a healthy or treatable animal. Heck, people could even sign a ‘hold harmless’ if the shelter was worried about liability. Would it have been an insurmountable task to include all adopters/rescuers in an email list to remind them of the need for quarantine, cleanliness and continued treatments, and to offer support and advice (and to thank them for taking the animals in)?

    A few years ago, I adopted a kitten with ringworm whose treatment had already been started with ‘jock itch’ ointment (a cheap treatment given under the direction of someone schooled in shelter medicine–this was safe, not all human meds are safe for cats. The rescue we adopted her from made it clear what we were getting into. While the itraconozole we switched to was pretty pricey, the infection cleared up without incident and none of our other cats got it and neither did we. As I recall, once treatment is started, it becomes much less communicable. As I learned from the research I did at the time, the hype is worse than any actual risk.

  8. There ARE other solutions rather than releasing infected animals to rescues or private individuals. The OSPCA has AMPLE staff, LOTS of money and far more political wallop than they deserve – furthermore, at this MOMENT, the THS (which they destroyed) is sitting EMPTY as it is (should almost be done) being completely sanitized! At least 300 animals could be comfortably housed at the River Street location – in a clean, controllable environement – then the ospca site could be deep cleaned and sanitized.

    By their OWN admission there are also a certain percentage of animals NOT infected; there is no reason those animals could not be quarantined, cleared and then fostered!

    There is money. There is space. There are staff and vets and techs. There just is no will – Biscuit puts it perfectly, sadly – a “new solution” to ringworm.

  9. I don’t know if it’s still available, but ringworm vaccine has proven effective in controlling outbreaks. A Dallas shelter managed to control an outbreak a few years ago by ordering a dose of ringworm vaccine for every cat (60+) in the shelter.

    It’s just not as great a preventative as the manufacturer (Ft Dodge?) had hoped, and it has (had?) a short shelf life.

  10. Oh, this whole thing is another load of complete and utter bullshit showered down on us from the desk of Jim Sykes, head of the OSPCA.

    This is the same Jim Sykes that brags about his Hamilton shelter being no-kill while the Animal Control unit in the same building kills over 10,000 animals each and every year.

    This is the same Jim Sykes whose very own shelter allowed a rabbit to breed while in their care and then proceeded to wait for the rabbit to give birth… and subsequently euth the rabbit and every single baby, despite interest from other rescues.

    The problem is at the top. Always has been, always will be until Jim is gone. You see, Jim is all about the bottom line. Second priority is image, and at the bottom of the list are the animals.

    Euthanizing due to ringworm is preposterous.

    We have rescued dozens of dogs with fungi, parasites and illnesses that all were transferable to humans and other pets. With the exception of Kennel Cough we’ve never had a cross-contamination and we have yet to euth an animal due to such an issue. We’ve taken dogs with scabies so bad they were walking oozing scabs.

    Did I mention that this is in my home?

    There is NO reason why this can’t be treated and contained within the shelter.

    The entire story just reeks of Jim Sykes’ influence.

  11. The cheapest and EASIER way to cure ringworm


    Put it on twice a day and within 4 days it starts clearing up and it stops the spread.

    My word these people should be charged !!!

  12. HELP! I have a very feral cat staying in my backyard who is covered with ring-worm! I don’t want to take him to the shelter. Had planned on taking him in to have him altered and get his shots within the next week or so (waiting for a check). Now I don’t know what to do. I already got it and treated myself successfully. BUT, am so afraid that my sickly 84 year old mother, kids, 3 dogs and a cat will get it. HOW do you treat a cat that you can’t catch? HOW do I prevent my other animals from getting it and my family? When you say expensive for the oral treatments, how much are we talking about here. NEED HELP FAST, PLEASE!

  13. Jennifer:

    If you can’t catch the cat, the only logical way to treat is with oral meds added to wet food. And you must, must, must wash your hands with soap and your clothes in hot water after being anywhere around the affected cat.

    I currently have two cats with ringworm. Have been giving them Itraconazole 40mg for three weeks, along with bi-weekly lime-sulphur dips. I also apply topical Conofite when they let me. For both cats a 3-wk supply of Itranconazole 40mg from a private vet cost me $42 USD, whereas a subsequent 4-wk supply (10mg) from ASPCA cost me $63. Conofite cost $19. (I live in Brooklyn, NY).

    Not sure if you are comfortable with those costs but IMO, it is not much to pay to help a feral cat through ringworm. Especially if it’ll permit you to take the next step and get him vaccinated & neutered.

    You are a wonderful person to care for a feral cat. Good luck!

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