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OSPCA Under Fire for Exterminating Shelter Pets

It sounds as if the public outcry over OSPCA’s plan to kill every living thing in their care because some of the pets have ringworm is helping:

The Ontario SPCA is asking qualified residents and local veterinarians who can treat ringworm to contact them with services you can offer to help save the remaining animals that were scheduled to be euthanized today.

Thank you to the boots-on-the-ground protesters and everyone who contacted the OSPCA, government representatives and other authorities to voice their condemnation of the mass killings.  I have no idea how many pets the OSPCA may have already needlessly killed over this ringworm outbreak but at least there is hope now for however many are left.

It is also unclear to me what responsibility, besides killing, the OSPCA is willing to accept in saving the remaining pets.  While I applaud the decision to reach out to the community for assistance, it should be plain to the OSPCA that care for these pets is their responsibility.  They used the press to lay blame for the outbreak at the feet of the recently fired shelter manager (charges the shelter manager denies).  But regardless of how the outbreak spread to such epidemic proportions, it is the OSPCA’s responsibility to treat these pets.  Unless they are claiming poverty, which I would doubt since they report millions in annual donations, most of which is spent on “animal care/investigations” (pdf), OSPCA should be the primary entity purchasing the necessary medications and treating these pets.  Support from the community is essential to the success of any shelter who wants to save pets but the reason donors give these millions to groups like the OSPCA is because they expect their money to go toward caring for animals.

I want to be optimistic but when the CEO of OSPCA speaks, it’s hard to keep your hopes out of the dirt:

Farming out animals for adoption or to other shelters would only spread the outbreak, Ms. MacDonald said.

The euthanization has already started despite protest signs, tears and pleas from animal lovers and volunteers.


The exact number of animal contaminated with ringworm is unknown, but it is expected to be quite high, Ms MacDonald said.

“We will not euthanize animals that are healthy,” she said. “But finding a healthy animal is unlikely. The chances of an animal not affected by the epidemic are very slim.”

For the record, when she says “an animal not affected by the epidemic”, she’s not referring to the plague.  It’s ringworm – a treatable fungal infection similar to athlete’s foot and jock itch.  While no one is saying it’s a walk in the park to eradicate ringworm, I don’t recall any mandate from the OSPCA to only deal with walk-in-the-park situations.  When you take money from people, promising to use it to care for the community’s pets, you have a clear obligation to do just that.  Unless OSPCA plans to redesign its fundraising materials and website to ask for donations to help animals when it’s convenient and free and sunshiney, they need to do right by their donors and the animals in their care.

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