The Disease Fighting Power of Fatal Plus

On its website, the Mt. Vernon Animal Shelter in NY is described as “a municipal shelter that serves as a safe haven for thousands of domestic animals”.  Two months ago, the shelter reportedly stopped accepting cats “when they worried they could not contain the spread of such diseases as feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus and ringworm.”  Now they are planning to use killing as a means to fight those diseases.

I am concerned that a municipal facility stopped helping cats in need.  I am concerned that a municipal facility does not know how to manage such common diseases as FeLV, FIV and ringworm.  And I am concerned that the city-appointed vet advising the shelter seems to be just as clueless:

“It becomes a public health problem,” [Dr. Robert Jiao] said. “The priority is what’s best for the whole animal population and what’s best for the public.”

FeLV is a public health problem, I guess.  The article goes on to state that cats who are “particularly sick, old and aggressive” and who don’t respond well to treatment – including rehabilitation for aggression – will likely be killed.  Shelter cats being rehabbed for aggression and those judged to be failing get marked for death?  Gee, that sounds extreme – and wacky.

Jiao said some of them will likely be euthanized, signaling a return to a policy that was always in place but has largely been ignored in recent years.


“The desire is sacrifice the few to benefit the many,” he said.

Has anyone surveyed the few to ask if they mind being “sacrificed”?  I thought not.  Since when is an old cat a public health problem?  Or any problem?  And how is this return to an old protocol in any way consistent with the shelter’s stated purpose of serving as a safe haven?  I hope Mt. Vernon can move forward, not back, with its policies and learn how no kill shelters manage FeLV, FIV and ringworm in cats without cutting off the community cats in need and without killing.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me this story.)

21 thoughts on “The Disease Fighting Power of Fatal Plus

  1. So much is wrong here…yet another county animal control that appears to be under the authority of the county Health Department. What a MISFIT in hierarchy. Vet Schools preach “Herd Health” at every level. There are so few vets that understand or are experienced in Shelter Medicine. And many that are have also been strictly trained in “Heard Health.” Kill anything that is sick before the rest catch it. And – since Ringworm spreads to people – nearly ALL government “shelters” kill cats and dogs with ring worm immediately. It is categorized as a “Public Health Risk and Liability.” As an AC Director I was told this many many times about the necessity of killing sick animals…ARGH…

    1. It sure looks like there isn’t anyone willing to run out to that shelter and take all those cats!!!!!

  2. Shirley, do you think shelters should take in cats? I no longer do, unless they are the very rare shelter that saves nearly all, either by returning them to habitat or finding them new homes, and that can actually treat their illnesses or injuries.

    Missing cats have almost NO chance of being reclaimed if the shelter takes them in; they have a much better chance if they are left where they are.

    Feral cats have almost no chance of surviving a shelter. They, like wild bunnies and raccoons, should be left where they are (or TNR’d if such a program is available, but if it’s not, leave them be!).

    Additionally, shelters like the one you write about here are sources of stress, illness, and suffering for cats. It’s cruel to take them in at all.

    I am a strong advocate of shelters not taking in cats as a way of saving the cats’ lives if they are shelters like this one. I think it’s infinitely more humane.

    And in all honesty, even good shelters with a 90 percent or higher save rate are horrible places for cats. Even with those shelters, I think most kitties would do better if shelters only took in injured or sick kitties they are going to treat, or those who are being TNR’d (whether “feral” or not).

    1. I am opposed to any shelter taking in *any* pet unless they intend to improve his lot in life. Taking in for killing – no way. Taking in to let them sit there and get sick and then kill them – nuh-uh. If the facility can not improve the pet’s situation by providing temporary care with the aim of getting a permanent placement, they should limit their admissions.

      This place claims to be a safe haven but has been turning away cats in need because they don’t know how to manage common diseases.

      1. You are a complete Wing Nut lady!!!!!! So what do you propose happens to all those sick and injuried animals???? Aren’t you the no kill idiot bad mouthing shelters that by law have no joice but to take in all the sick, injured, and unwanted animals that all the so called no kill shelters will take. Your are so way out of touch with reality!!!!!!!

    2. What about the people? Desperate and in need of surrendering their cats to a safe place or in turn owners who simply can’t make the decision when a cat is suffering at the end of it’s life to humanely euthanize. Abandonment is also an issue that can’t be ignored. As for cats not being reclaimed, this too needs to be an educational issue. Don’t forget the individual people when addressing individual animals. Both need to be considered. Also, individual jurisdictions and their mandates that need to be adjusted also need to be adjusted. Blame does not fascilitate change in my humble opinion.

      1. I agree with you that the community should provide a safe haven for people in need of help with their pets. There will always be that need. The problem is that too many facilities are not acting as safe havens for pets and are in fact the opposite. If the shelter will not do its job, I think they should go to the county public meeting and say, “We refuse to do our job and therefore won’t be accepting pets in need from the community since all we’ll be doing for most of them is killing anyway. But still keep paying us.” I’d like to have that public conversation.

      2. Shirley, the problem with that is that most of these facilities think that it IS their job to kill. They’re working on the old shelter model of catch and kill…and are in the mindset that killing is their job. THAT needs to change.

  3. How does a shelter responsibly manage FeLV? I don’t know much about procedure with these kinds of cats. My assumption is that a one-cat foster or a foster with other FeLV cats would be the only safe way. Am I correct?

    1. FeLV and FIV are not easily spread from cat to cat like the upper respiratory viruses. Usually a bite from an infected cat is required to spread the disease. FeLV can also spread from momma to the kittens, while FIV is much less likely to transfer that way. One thing some people don’t realize is that many cats can actually clear themselves of the viruses if exposed. If a cat tests positive and is not showing any signs of illness, it should be retested in 3 months to see if it is still positive. Cats with either disease (and especially FIV) can live long and fruitful lives if properly cared for. The shelter I work with places assymtomatic positive cats into foster for 3 months then retests. If they remain positive, we then work hard to place them into single cat homes or with another positive cat. So far this has been very successful.

      Ringworm is more of a problem, because it CAN spread to people and other animals. It can also contaminate a room and infect more cats. It is something that can be controlled and managed, but it takes effort. Treatment is labor intensive and can go on for months. One way to manage it is to screen all incoming cats (a device called a Wood’s lamp is very helpful in this) and to dip all kittens on entry. Hopefully, this will prevent infected cats from entering the general population, and if one does slip through, the dipping may help protect the others from contracting the disease. Positive cats need to be isolated and treated until they are cleared of the disease. Cat rooms should be periodically tested to make sure they are not contaminated with the fungus (cultures can be done).

      Like most things in working towards a “No kill” shelter, management of these diseases requires WORK, as well as
      knowledge. I hear shelters all the time complain about how they don’t have enough money, or enough people or enough room…I have seen big beautiful, well funded shelters with an 80% kill rate, and outdated, small, understaffed shelters with a 99% SAVE rate. My belief is that a shelter needs to rethink THEIR PURPOSE and FOCUS. Instead of taking the “easy way” and euthanizing every animal that isn’t perfect, they should learn how to manage the population and improve adoptions.

      1. “My belief is that a shelter needs to rethink THEIR PURPOSE and FOCUS. Instead of taking the “easy way” and euthanizing every animal that isn’t perfect, they should learn how to manage the population and improve adoptions.”

        Yes! A thousand times yes!

  4. What about putting the FIV cats in a separate cat room together. I just recently visited a no-kill facility that did just that. The cats were happy, and there was no mass outbreak requiring a mass killing to “protect the public.”

  5. I always cringe when I see FIV being lumped into the same category as contagious diseases that require isolating a cat to prevent its spread. FIV is difficult to transmit between adult cats; it would have to occur through a deep bite. Many people, including me, have mixed households of FIV+ and FIV- cats and all my cats are healthy, safe, and happy. If cats are properly introduced and don’t fight, the virus will not be spread to FIV- cats. FIV cats often have no symptoms at all, and they do not need regular medication. Some cats even test positive for FIV because they have been vaccinated against it (not recommended, since a cat would always test positive and could be killed if the cat enters a shelter where staff are ignorant about FIV). The fact that this shelter is worried about the spread of FIV in their shelter makes me realize that their staff really doesn’t understand it and shouldn’t be in a position to make life and death decisions for a cat based on this diagnosis.

    1. Some vets are still giving shelters and rescues bad advice. When I call the local clinic that the cat rescue here uses and ask them about bringing in a stray, they recommend testing for FIV and FeLV, then having the cats killed if they test positive. These recommendations are all being made over the phone without even examining the cats, because “have you ever seen a cat die from these diseases?”

      So the rescue group(s) listens to their vet and doesn’t even try to adopt out positive cats, even though you can go on PetFinder and see that others are placing positive felines.

      I believe there is quite a lot of newer info they SHOULD be aware of about this.

      Shelters and rescues should be transparent and be required to report how animals they had destroyed and the reasons for the decisions if they expect the public and taxpayers to support them.

  6. FeLV is a public health problem for the members of the public who are cats. After all, the public is made up of far more species than just humans. But it can be managed without killing positive cats.

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