York Co SPCA Kills 36 Cats in Response to Ringworm Outbreak

Ringworm is a treatable condition which appears as a skin infection in pets.  Both oral and topical medications may be prescribed by a vet in treating pets with ringworm.  As with all diseases, it’s essential that animal shelters have protocols in place to prevent ringworm since treatment involves time, space and money – resources which shelters must use carefully.  The Koret Shelter Medicine Program at UC Davis has very detailed recommendations for shelters on both prevention and treatment.  These include:

  • Carefully inspect all incoming animals and all animals being considered for foster care or group housing. Look for any areas of hair loss, scabbing, or crusting, especially focal areas affecting the face, ears, feet or tail.
  • Segregate affected or suspected animals and institute cleaning protocols to prevent further spreading.
  • Environmental decontamination
  • During an outbreak or in areas that have frequent problems with ringworm, separate housing of all kittens in an easy to bleach area for at least two weeks, followed by careful re-inspection for signs of ringworm.

It sounds like hard work but obviously for a shelter, it comes with the territory.  After all, the name is not Animal Shelter, When It’s Easy and Convenient.

Dingo, a cat with ringworm (Photo by JF Richards)
Dingo, a cat with ringworm (Photo by JF Richards)
Dingo after receiving treatment for ringworm (Photo by JF Richards)
Dingo, after receiving treatment for ringworm (Photo by JF Richards)

On April 1, the Fox affiliate in central PA reported that the York County SPCA killed 36 cats in response to a ringworm outbreak, for convenience:

York County SPCA executive director, Melissa Smith, says likely a stray cat spread its undetected ringworm to 120 cats.

Smith says, “That was too large a number for us to successfully treat so we decided to decrease that number down to a more manageable amount we could quarantine.”

Decrease that number. Ew.

Apparently the quarantine area at the York Co SPCA can house 90 cats so they killed 36 cats for convenience. And if you don’t like them apples, you will probably not like hearing that the decision to needlessly kill cats for convenience is your fault:

It’s a decision Smith says is preventable by spaying or neutering your pet.

If only we irresponsible public types would spay and neuter, the staff at the York Co SPCA would start doing their jobs. Wait – I did spay and neuter my pets. Now what’s the excuse? The York Co SPCA board president explains:

The York County SPCA recently experienced an outbreak of ringworm that ultimately resulted in the difficult decision to euthanize 36 cats. In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted animals, no need to operate animal shelters, and thus no need for those who dedicate their lives to the well-being of animals to make the heart-wrenching decision of euthanasia.

Such decisions are made out of necessity, not by choice, in thousands of similar humane organizations across the country on a daily basis. Sadly, an ideal world is one we continually strive for but not the reality of the world in which we live.
Many are demanding the resignation of Executive Director Melissa Smith, who has been a tireless advocate for the well-being of animals for nearly 25 years. Let us be unmistakably clear: Melissa Smith has the full support of the York County SPCA Board of Directors and will continue to do so.
Euthanasia is a disease that can be cured. The ultimate blame for this measure should be assigned not to those who must routinely make such heart-wrenching decisions, but to those who do not properly care for their animals, leave them unattended, allow them to reproduce, and whose lack of responsibility inevitably causes countless unwanted animals to end up in our and similar shelters throughout the country each day.

To recap:

  • The world is imperfect. Therefore, it’s anything goes, including cat killing!
  • Thousands of other shelters needlessly kill pets every day. Which makes it ok.
  • “Euthanasia is a disease that can be cured.” So it’s exactly like ringworm!
  • Don’t blame those doing the killing for the killing of pets. Blame your awful selves.
  • We are awesome. You guys suck.

Notably absent from the Yay Cat Killings/Boo You People PR:

  • Any mention of the York Co SPCA’s protocols to prevent ringworm
  • A detailed explanation for how those protocols failed
  • Whether any/all of the 120 cats were actually tested for ringworm
  • Why the York Co SPCA chose to kill for convenience instead of issuing a plea to the public for assistance
  • Why donors should continue to have faith in the York Co SPCA
  • What changes are being implemented in order to avoid, or at least minimize, another outbreak.

I guess the organization was so busy congratulating itself on its tireless animal advocacy filling up the dumpster with dead cats, no one remembered to appear accountable.  But when they are not killing cats, they are probably doing their jobs, right?  I mean, they would be, if it was a perfect world.  Until then, sucks being a cat at the York Co SPCA.

(Thank you Beth for the links.)

51 thoughts on “York Co SPCA Kills 36 Cats in Response to Ringworm Outbreak

  1. The only cure for euthanasia, douche bags, is not to do it. I am certain that living meant everything to the 36 cats they killed. I have two cats that I know about with ringworm that may have come from an ear tipped cat I pulled from Hillsborough County Animal Services in Tampa, Florida, in late March 2014. They are being treated and are all doing very well. I have no regrets.

    1. Janet, you should go adopt 36 cats with ringworm. Taking care of two cats is nothing compared to the hundreds they have to take in because of irresponsible people. They save a lot of cats. They are just sometimes facing their limits, just like you and me. I am not able to adopt more than my 3 cats that I have. You cannot take more than the two you have. They cannot take care of more than what they do now. As long as you and me are not taking in all the cats with ringworm that they have to euthanize, I guess we cannot blame them because we are not doing better… in fact they are doing much better than us since they save a lot of them compared to the 2 or 3 that we have saved.

      1. I haven’t visited this post in several years so I don’t remember it, but as a former foster parent I fostered many cats with skin issues such as ringworm and scabies. It never worried me to do so. I no longer foster cats from Hillsborough County Animal Services.

  2. If you are in agreement that the York County SPCA could have handled a ringworm outbreak differently and new management is called for, please sign the petition:


    Additionally, we have a Facebook page that we would appreciate if you would visit and “like” the page.


    Thanks, Beth Humphreys

  3. “Notably absent from the Yay Cat Killings/Boo You People PR:

    Any mention of the York Co SPCA’s protocols to prevent ringworm
    A detailed explanation for how those protocols failed
    Whether any/all of the 120 cats were actually tested for ringworm”

    Don’t be ridiculous; only the irresponsible public should be held accountable for caring for their animals properly! The shelters can do whatever they want and never have to explain it.

  4. The worst part about this is that ringworm isn’t all that easy to spread. I mean, yes, on one level it is, but it isn’t nearly as easy as with something like upper respiratory infections. It doesn’t spread through the air…you don’t really NEED to quarantine infected animals in a separate area. You wear gloves, wash your hands before and after handling, don’t share towels or bedding without washing it first…all the stuff you really should be doing anyway. So who cares if there aren’t enough cages in the guarantee room? Save those cages for diseases that are more easily transmitted. And this excuse that they didn’t have time to treat them all? The treatment isn’t complex…you don’t need to triage what animals to save with something as basic as ringworm. I say this as a person who has been infected numerous times by it in the course of my career (I think I eventually built up an immunity.) Why not ask the public if they’d rather see a cat killed than get ringworm themselves (after educating them on the treatment for it and what it actually is.)

  5. I guess that must be how they’re able to sleep at night: the public made us do it. Consequently there never has to be any shelter accountability as long as blame can always be placed elsewhere, which is partly why the shelter system in this country is such a f*cking mess!

  6. This sounds so much like a bully or abusive jerk. “Look what you made me do” when they strike out without reason, simply because they think they can get away with it.
    And sadly, they often do.

  7. that is just totally unexceptable and appalling, they should not have done such a horrible thing, i understand that it was a large number of cats,but i believe that they all could have been treated, and i also believe that they all have the right to live, and that no human has a right to end there lives.

  8. It is clear that certain individuals have no regard for the truth, and have chosen instead to disparage a wonderful organization through their deliberate attempts to spread misinformation and a false narrative about the circumstances surrounding the ringworm outbreak that occurred several weeks ago at the York County SPCA. If the truth mattered, these individuals would have taken the time and effort to learn that nearly 90 cats were saved after WEEKS of treatment. Many of these cats have recently been adopted after heroic and extensive efforts to treat them. 36 cats were humanely euthanized only AFTER the shelter became inundated with incoming cats and capacity constraints became an issue, and only after an assessment was made about their condition, temperament and suitability for adoption. The individuals criticizing the York SPCA for not seeking help from the community, and who are behind the petition and website Ms. Humphreys is promoting, don’t even live in the York area and have never once visited the shelter nor met any of its dedicated staff. They have no firsthand knowledge of the situation or what actually transpired. Those who DO have firsthand knowledge truly appreciate the York County SPCA’s extraordinary efforts in this situation. The local community has always been well aware of the York SPCA’s need for assistance and its repeated calls for help. Those calls for help remain to this day, but sadly seem to fall only upon deaf ears more often than not. Rather than helping the shelter animals and doing anything constructive, some individuals seem more content to slander a model animal shelter and its well regarded and highly acclaimed Executive Director. Such actions are shameful and wrong, and do not reflect well upon those responsible. Instead of being advocates for animals as they contend, they are doing just the opposite by attacking a stellar organization that actually cares and provides for these wonderful creatures each and every day. What a shame.

    1. All I’m seeing here is the same old “blah blah blah excuses they had to kill for space blah blah blah more excuses.”

      1. No excuses necessary. I’m just providing facts and the actual background for anyone who would rather know the truth as opposed to rumors, conjecture, and emotionally-charged responses that lack substance or any constructive merit. If you or anyone else can provide better alternatives when more animals come into shelters than capacity to house them then please do share. And turning them away isn’t an option or solution, since many of them experience far harsher fates. It’s not uncommon for them to end up in garbage bags, used as targets in shooting practice, or as bait in dog fighting rings, so which is more humane? The only “blah blah blah” I see is from the same individuals from a certain site who seem to be long on meritless accusations and short on any measures to actually do something constructive to help. Perhaps you should take the advice of Alley Cat Allies, who actually did their homework and advised you to reach out to help the York County SPCA instead of unfairly criticizing them. Their advice obviously fell upon deaf ears. Why don’t you actually visit the shelter and see for yourself the protocols and treatment regimen of each incoming animal and the love and care each receives? I suppose that’s too much to ask. I guess it’s much easier to continue with wild conspiracy theories that might make good internet fodder (and create quite a few laughs among those who know better!,) but unfortunately won’t do a thing to actually help the animals.

      2. Jeff, there is a better alternative. It’s called the No Kill Equation, and nobody is hiding it from you.

      3. I welcome a dialog on this issue. I only ask that it remain constructive and that any temptation to make it personal is avoided. We share the same goal – we both share a common love for animals and want to see a world where they are treated humanely and with all the love they deserve. Although “No-Kill” sheltering would be ideal in a perfect world, as I see it “No-Kill” isn’t no kill at all – it merely means the animals are killed in a different way. No Kill shelters have similar capacity constraints. Although they partner with other rescue groups and similar-minded organizations and accept incoming animals as long as they and their partners have capacity to house them, eventually they must refuse to accept incoming animals when the same capacity constraints come in to play. When they do, the animals are left to their own devices where they either end up in shelters that euthanize or, worse, experience a far harsher fate such as that I described in a previous post. Stating that a shelter is “No Kill” certainly sounds good in concept, but to think that the end result isn’t the same seems rather naïve to me. We shouldn’t put our heads in the sand and think otherwise. The bottom line is that there are currently more unwanted animals than demand. All the education in the world about adoptions and increasing the supply of rescue groups, foster families etc. certainly helps, but it won’t change the underlying reality that demand is too little and supply of unwanted animals too great. That’s why focusing on supply is so critical, and aggressive spay/neuter is the ultimate solution in that regard. Want to reduce euthanasia? – check out the Humane Alliance in Asheville, NC. They pioneered high quality, high volume, low cost spay/neuter and have observed a 75% reduction in incoming animals and euthanasia over a multi-year period throughout western NC. The results have been impressive and effective, and that is the model upon which the York shelter recently used to construct its own similar facility. If you Google the Humane Alliance website you will see a touching video about their experience and the concept – it will bring tears to your eyes. That is the inspiration that drives the York SPCA. I assure you that no one takes the decision of euthanasia lightly and it breaks the hearts of everyone involved. But when you turn animals away, and you witness the cruel and ultimate fate of many of them as a result, it breaks one’s heart far more. I do hope we can ultimately live in a world we both want – a world in which every animal can experience a rich and full life that they deserve. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. I truly believe much more can be accomplished through constructive measures, and by treating fellow animal lovers as the friends they really are rather than the enemies many are attempting to make them out to be.

      4. There are no kill open admission shelters, and there are entire communities saving 90+% of animals going into their shelters, not just “healthy and adoptable” animals. What do they do when the shelter gets full? They find ways to get as many out as they can, and not in garbage bags. They do free adoption events, send out foster pleas, etc. It can be done, but you can’t do it if you don’t think it’s worth trying.

      5. Now that I’m back online and not trying to do this from my phone, here you go. This should clear up some of your misconceptions. http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=12245

        As for low-cost s/n, it’s great, and it’s part of how we’re able to save 90+% of animals here in Austin. However, it’s not THE solution.

      6. Thank you for sharing the link. It took me awhile, but I did read through it. I don’t disagree that many shelters can and should do more and that some take the “easy” way out. But to assume that all shelters are essentially bad and stereotype them all together is not appropriate. Many shelters, including the York County SPCA, are doing everything the No Kill Equation suggests but still the same challenges remain with more incoming animals than demand. Perhaps the statistics in the article truly are accurate which would indicate that there is enough potential adoption demand nationwide to meet what seems to be an overwhelming supply of unwanted animals. That would be encouraging and welcome news. I can’t speak for national statistics or other shelters, but the empirical evidence in York county unfortunately indicates otherwise. The York County SPCA already incorporates satellite adoption facilities and has a vast outreach to foster families and other rescue groups. It has frequent adoption events, many of which are free or at greatly discounted prices. It has a significant TNR program for feral cats with its own transportation service, and it recently opened a high volume spay/neuter clinic with capacity to ultimately sterilize over 17,000 animals annually at affordable rates. Several years ago it even raised funds to construct a new shelter which more than doubled housing capacity. It was believed at the time that more capacity was the “solution,” yet to everyone’s amazement it reached capacity within two weeks of opening. It has since used office rooms, board rooms, storage areas, and even its garage to free up additional capacity to no avail. It is open for adoptions to the general public 5 days per week. On the two days the shelter is closed to the general public, its dedicated staff even arrange for private adoptions on their days “off.” It is regularly publicizing the need for volunteers, additional foster families, and the wonderful animals in its care that are available for adoption. Every incoming cat is tested for ringworm and dipped as a precautionary measure, and the shelter’s ventilation system was recently tested and upgraded to reduce the risk of future outbreaks and improve containment. Still, despite these and other efforts, ringworm outbreaks occasionally still occur, more animals come in to the shelter each year, and capacity constraints remain an issue. The York SPCA has always had an “All of the Above” approach and will remain relentless in its mission to find a loving home for every animal. It’s not a coincidence that the York shelter is considered a model shelter widely known for its leadership and innovation in addressing the welfare of animals. Anyone is free to visit the shelter and see firsthand why the York SPCA and its Executive Director, Melissa Smith, are held in such high esteem. Yet no organization is perfect, and I know that it is continually exploring ways to improve. But as one with firsthand knowledge of the organization, I find it unconscionable that many on certain social media sites have rushed to judgment, made wild assumptions, and spread blatant mistruths about an organization they have never visited and clearly know nothing about. If it was merely about asking the community for help, as some have suggested, I assure you that the need and urgency at the York shelter and similar shelters like it have not changed. I know that any and all help and assistance would be welcomed and appreciated (I might also suggest that an apology would be in order as well!) :-) But I’m not holding my breath. With the above said, I thank you Sarah and admire your advocacy for the well-being of animals. Your results and experience in Austin are outstanding and quite encouraging. Please know that my response is not intended to diminish such efforts in any way – I’m merely trying to better inform you about the local situation here in York, the challenges and realities faced, and the various measures currently employed that likely are unknown to many on this blog and similar sites. I do hope you understand.

      7. Justifying killing for space is not part of the No Kill Equation, and the challenges faced in York County are in no way unique.

      8. I’m sure it isn’t, but then again I’m sure the tragic images of what happens to many of them if they are turned away when shelters are full isn’t part of the No Kill Equation either

      9. No, it’s not, and turning animals away because shelters are full isn’t part of it either. I don’t see your point. You’re not following the No Kill equation, so of course it’s not working.

      10. Well, Jeff, I went and had a look at your website. It says you’re open four days a week. It’s scattered, difficult to read, hard to figure out where the off-site adoption events are, and doesn’t link to adoptable animals. Your pet finder site has 68 animals listed for adoption, yet says that you have 400 cats in need of homes. Your Facebook site has more lost dog postings than dogs available for adoption. In fact, I paged down six times and didn’t see a single dog or cat available for adoption (rabbits and guinea pigs and one dog you’re raising surgery funds for, but that’s it).

        So I’ve just spent five minutes looking at these things and I can honestly tell you that you’re NOT interacting with the public in a way that’s going to get animals out as fast as possible.

        So if you want to improve, this is a place you can start. Feature an adoptable pet a day on your Facebook page. Clean up your website and make it readable and LINK to adoptable animals. Make efforts to engage the public with the work you do, the good things that happen there, the efforts you make. Thank your adopters. Thank your donors. Keep it positive and keep it current and informative. Promote your low cost s/n. Get the people emotionally involved with the work you do. USE the tools you have at your disposal.

        And to be quite frank, some of your adoption fees are astonishing. $180 for a purebred kitten? $130 for “regular” kittens? $125 for a purebred cat? $260 for Purebred/Highly Adoptable Mixed Puppies? I don’t know York County – is it very well-to-do? Because…goodness. Try this – have a weekend of $20 cats and $40 kittens. Promote it hard and heavy for ten days beforehand and move.them.out.

        And finally, please STOP calling them “unwanted animals”. It’s all over your website and you say it regularly yourself. Right away, that makes people think that there’s something wrong with them, that nobody wants them, that THEY probably don’t want these animals. Homeless does not equal unwanted. Stray does not equal unwanted. Owner surrender does not equal unwanted. You do NOT want to tell people that your pets are unwanted. You want to tell them that they’re “adoptable” or “available” or “ready to start a new life” or “ready to go home with you!” or whatever. Language matters – it affects thought and if you’re thinking of your animals as “unwanted”, then your mindset is already negative. Change it. And tell yourself every day as many times a day as you need to “there is a home for every pet, I just need to find it”. It may not be close by, it may not be easy, but it’s out there and it’s your job to FIND IT. Paralyzed dogs, three-legged one-eyed cats, blind pets, deaf pets, cute and fluffies, ugly and scarred, outgoing or shy. There are all kinds of people in the world who want all kinds of pets – FIND THEM. Hunt them down with everything you’ve got so that they adopt YOUR pets. Get your animals seen, make your organization THE place to go for a pet, and move those animals out.

      11. I appreciate your reply Casey, and you’ve made some excellent points and suggestions. You are right – language IS important, and sometimes changing simple words or terms can do a lot to alter perception. I also agree that significant improvements can be made on the website, Facebook page, etc. and coordination could be much better in that regard. Volunteers, not SPCA staff, currently update and oversee these pages and sites in order to free up staff to devote more time to care for the animals. It’s my understanding that an overhaul of the website has been in the works for awhile and hopefully will be completed soon. It’s a step in the right direction. Pricing is always a focus and potential concern. On the one hand it helps defray the costs to operate a shelter, but at the same time prices need to be affordable so that more animals can be adopted. It’s always a delicate balancing act. I do know that they have many special adoption events throughout the year, and that cats have been “two-purr” – i.e. two for the price of one for quite some time. Much of what you have suggested is currently being done, but there is always room for more improvement. I know the intentions are good and efforts being made. Petfinder only provides a small sample of the animals available for adoption, which often creates confusion given that the SPCA has many more animals than what appear on that particular site. I will relay your points and concerns, and thank you again for sharing them.

      12. Sarah what do you suggest shelters do when they are essentially doing all the things the No Kill Equation is advocating yet still there is insufficient demand versus supply? Are you suggesting that they should refuse to accept any more incoming animals? That’s been tried Sarah with catastrophic results, and I know no one has the stomach to see such images again. So I’d like to know some specific suggestions that the York SPCA isn’t already doing that is consistent with the No Kill Equation other than “don’t euthanize animals.” Because ultimately that just means that many will experience a far harsher fate which does not seem acceptable to me. Any shelter can call itself “No Kill” and have high “save” rates as a result, but it can be very misleading and not “saving” at all if such animals only end up in other shelters or worse end up in the tragic images I described. I think it’s pretty naïve to think otherwise. But I’m still listening….

      13. It really doesn’t seem like you’re listening, because we’re going in circles now. You’re not really understanding what No Kill is or how it’s supposed to work, and you’re still buying into the myth of overpopulation. Once again, if there are too many animals in the shelter, you find ways to get them out. The demand for your shelter animals is not static – you can find ways to increase it. Casey made some great suggestions towards accomplishing that.

        I don’t think it’s naive to think No Kill can work, because once again, there are entire communities that are doing it. Not just shelters calling themselves No Kill and then turning away animals so they can go to high kill shelters. For some reason it seems as though you’re just not wanting to process this information.

      14. Sarah I assure you that I have an open mind about this, but when organizations are doing all the things that No Kill Equation advocates and there still remains insufficient demand to keep shelters from reaching capacity then “try harder” doesn’t seem to cut it. Maybe, just maybe, you should be open to the fact that there truly are areas in this country where the animal overpopulation is very real and unlikely to be addressed simply by just “trying harder” to increase demand. Will the York County SPCA continue to try harder, be better, and improve? Absolutely. But when, despite such efforts, supply continues to exceed demand such organizations should not be condemned and assumed to be a front for a “mass cat killing” operation that certain individuals have alleged. I double checked my zip code. It says “York County” not “Fantasy Land.” Seriously, I applaud your dedication and commitment to the No Kill cause. I’m sure in many areas it works. But if you were more familiar with York county and how the local shelter operates, I truly believe you’d have a better appreciation of the situation. Elimination of euthanasia remains the ultimate goal. We’ve learned through years of experience and considerable trial and error that there is only limited upside to demand locally, which is why spay/neuter efforts have become such an important focus. That doesn’t mean that creative efforts to increase adoptions won’t continue, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that people aren’t currently lined up at the door to take these wonderful animals home, capacity remains constrained, and turning them away is not an option.

      15. Jeff, they’re NOT doing everything the No Kill Equation advocates, and people aren’t “lined up at the door” because the animals aren’t being marketed as well as they could be. Once again, Casey took the time to tell you very specifically where there’s a lot of room for improvement in that regard. Again, demand is not static – marketing increases demand. Again, York County is not unique. You are facing the exact same challenges faced by every single community that is now No Kill. You say you don’t live in Fantasy Land, and I don’t either – Austin didn’t get a 90+% save rate by magic.


      1. So much for keeping it civil and dignified. Such lack of civility has unfortunately come to be expected from your particular group (not referring to most on this blog but you know who I am referring to.) Responding in such a manner does nothing to further your cause – it diminishes it. If you want to be taken seriously try acting with the class others in this forum have shown. I’ve seen your name before and am well aware of the filth and vitriol you have directed toward people you’ve never met and know nothing about. I’ll say a prayer for you – you seem to need a lot of them.

      2. Jeff, anyone who writes in all caps is someone to whom a response of any kind is a wasted effort. While the coherent replies of those who disagree with you are making you defensive, that’s to be expected, as you come to the discussion believing wholeheartedly all the things you think are so good about your organization, while others see things (such as poor marketing and poor communication and rather limited hours – all significant minuses to getting more animals adopted), totally aside from the unfortunate killing of cats that your group felt they couldn’t save because of limited resources. You explained that the complete story was not explained and reported correctly, and right there you might have taken notice that that, in and of itself, is an issue that needs to be addressed. Having someone who can better articulate the entire picture to the media (although there’s no guarantee the entire story will be told), will help your community better understand – and more importantly – believe that your organization is trying as hard as it can to get the best outcomes for the animals in its care.

        Since you seem to have a good handle on coherent conversational skills, perhaps you can try to become the point person to the media – unless your group is unwilling to really work with volunteers in whatever way will be best for the animals – and you need to find out what the limits are to more help from volunteers before you start excusing staff from not trying harder. If the staff (and whatever group is in overall charge of staff) will not allow volunteers to increase their assistance to the animals, finding out the complete reasons why – and how volunteers can change those reasons – needs to be part of the steps to better the animal’s outcomes. But, if you (or whoever) does get to start communicating better with the media, you need to really sit down with the powers that be and be brave enough to ask searching questions, such as how and when can changes to the website/FB page/hours/protocols be made, because those are things the community needs to see happening before they’ll increase support to your group. If you can’t get specifics on these things, then you may start seeing a different picture than you have about how good your group is. If you just willingly ignore others concerns and just keep repeating “Our group tries as hard as it can” type statements, you can’t move forwards.

        And, sadly, although it may be true to some extent, that there are other outcomes than ‘euthanasia’ inside the shelter for SOME animals that aren’t brought there (like the dreaded ‘being use as bait’), please stop throwing them around like confetti as reasons why your group ‘has to’ put down any number of adoptable animals to ‘save’ them from other fates. Reliance on possible bad things happening – which don’t happen that often – is an easy way to accept that putting animals down inside your shelter is better than changing things to increase live release rates. What are the protocols for adoption, and how restrictive are they? Can they be made easier so that more people feel good about coming to your shelter to adopt? How does your group interest – and train and retain – volunteers? The more people that LIKE coming to your shelter, the better your community involvement can be. If people think that your shelter isn’t a friendly, clean, safe place for animals, with more transparent ways of doing things, they are less likely to even think about going there for an animal, let alone support you in various ways. Your community is your best resource and your community isn’t different from many others that have improved the lives of the animals in their shelter. It will be difficult to change the mindset of many who think your group is doing ‘everything’ they can, but you can’t help them change things unless you, yourself, start to understand and admit there are other things to do and to increase things that are being done to get more animals out the front door alive than are being done now. Good luck!

  9. Awh- Jeff please come by and visit me, I have some great koolaid.
    I am a small rescuer- with between 30 and 50 cats at a time in the system. I with the help of my significant other care for the shelter.
    Many of the cats housed in an open environment are long term resident Ferals.
    Unfortunately a foster home transmitted ringworm to some AC pulls we had done. Needless to say we had ringworm in the general population. Now with just the two of us- I did hire extra help two days a week for three months- we were able to get the ringworm removed from the cats and the environment.
    No cats were ever killed. Was it hard work to add this extra burden on our operations? Absolutely. But it was done without taking a life.
    So please go blow your platitudes elsewhere.

    1. I think the rescue work you do is terrific – I commend you for such efforts! But with all due respect, you have reinforced my point. You indicated that it took you 3 months to control a ringworm outbreak of only 30 – 50 cats. The York County SPCA generally houses 400 – 600 animals at any point in time, most of them cats, and had an outbreak nearly 3-4 times as large. In addition, it does not have the ability to turn away incoming animals. On any given day more animals come in to the shelter than find homes, and during the initial week of the ringworm outbreak more than 90 additional cats came into the shelter with no capacity to house them. So capacity constraints are very real and cannot be ignored. One might think that these animals would be better off on their own if the SPCA did not accept them, but the reality is that they often experience a far harsher fate – many end up in garbage bags in dumpsters, used as target practice, or as bait in dog fighting rings. Don’t think I’m serious? – just read the animal cruelty investigations in York and countless other areas throughout the country. It will break your heart. The sad result when there are more incoming animals than capacity to house them is euthanasia, which is why controlling the population of unwanted animals through aggressive spay/neuter efforts is the ultimate “cure” for this dreaded “disease.” Most who read this blog and similar sites truly love animals and obviously aren’t at fault, but let’s be real – we all know that there are far too many who don’t properly care for their animals and abuse them. THEY are the ultimate cause of the problem, which I believe is the point the SPCA Board of Directors was making in their written response. Because if there were no unwanted animals, there would be no need for shelters, and thus no need for many of them to be humanely euthanized when capacity constraints become an issue. I’m not blowing platitudes, I’m just keeping it real and truthful. We all share a common bond in our love for animals, and well all want to have an ideal world in which they all can find homes and experience the same unconditional love that they provide to us each and every day. Thanks again for the work that you do.

  10. “The sad result when there are more incoming animals than capacity to house them is euthanasia, which is why controlling the population of unwanted animals through aggressive spay/neuter efforts is the ultimate “cure” for this dreaded “disease.” ”

    How many cats killed were s/n? Funny how being s/n doesn’t save them, isn’t it?

    “Because if there were no unwanted animals, there would be no need for shelters, and thus no need for many of them to be humanely euthanized when capacity constraints become an issue. ”

    Oh yes, if only the world were a perfect place with all nice people in it, we wouldn’t have to slaughter millions…um, no. Think about hospitals in an epidemic situation – more coming in than they have capacity for. Do we start killing off the sickest patients to open up more beds? No? Why not?

    “I’m not blowing platitudes, I’m just keeping it real and truthful”

    Yes, what you say is real – real old school managing of a shelter. There are newer, more compassionate models to work from – why not investigate those? Or is it just easier to say, “Hey, we did everything we could and besides, the irresponsible public is to blame!” ?

    Kittypurr’s point was that her shelter’s resources were extremely limited, yet they managed the situation without death. I’m sure that York has better resources to match their higher intake (including outreach to the general, irresponsible public for help). And then you throw in the “they were better off being dead because there are bad people out there” is straight out of PeTA’s playbook and that will NOT fly here.

  11. Still the same “blah blah blah” Kittypurr – Outreach? Already doing that. I’m still waiting to hear constructive dialog and what you would do when faced with the same situation as the York SPCA when more animals come in than capacity to house them. I sincerely hope you don’t think animals ending up in garbage bags and used as target practice is compassionate. It’s easy to play armchair quarterback, but much more difficult to walk in the shoes of others who are confronted with the challenges of animal overpopulation each and every day.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Here’s what Nathan did when faced with a hoarding situation when he was a shelter director:

      From: http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=4335
      “This is the scenario I faced a number of years ago. And I want to share with you what happened. First, I employed the “appear in control despite the chaos” strategy: I hid my panic. Then I employed a bit of imagination: What if we put up a big tent in the backyard to house the dogs? So I called up a local party rental store and asked them to donate a wedding tent in exchange for promotion. Whatever the circumstances, it was my job to imagine a solution. If it didn’t work, it was my job to imagine another solution. Leaders do not throw up their hands and say, if we can’t do this one thing (in this case, kill); there isn’t anything else we can do. If a door is closed, you open it. If it is locked, you kick it down. If it is reinforced, you smash a window. Not enough veterinarians? What if I called my kids orthodontist to come in and look at some teeth? How different could teeth be?”

      Motivated people are really good at finding solutions, and I do hope that in the future, your people find within themselves the will and imagination to figure out alternatives to killing, no matter how overwhelmed they are.

      You can help in a big way by (re)introducing them to the No Kill Equation: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/shelter-reform/no-kill-equation/, which is:
      having a TNR program, high-volume/low-cost sterilization, working with rescue reputable groups, having foster care for all ages, having comprehensive adoptions programs (monthly promotions, daily off-site adoptions), having a pet retention program, medical and behavior prevention/rehabilitation, good public relations for community involvement, using volunteers, doing proactive redemptions (e.g., return to owner in the field instead of impoundment), and most importantly, having a compassionate director that will take killing off the table and find more creative solutions to killing for convenience.

      If they sincerely implement the above, they will see good, probably even dramatic, results in a relatively short period of time (e.g., months). If they don’t have enough staff, ask the public for help, which in turn usually responds well to calls for helping with No Kill:

      From: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/tactics.pdf
      “By adopting the no Kill philosophy, shelter volunteer rates increase dramatically. In Reno, Nevada, the local humane society increased the number of volunteers from 30 to
      nearly 8,000 after launching its No Kill initiative.”

      If they don’t believe it will work, know that it has worked when implemented by people who didn’t think it would work: http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=4412 (Note that we have many cognitive errors that we live by: http://io9.com/5974468/the-most-common-cognitive-biases-that-prevent-you-from-being-rational.)

      If they don’t think there are any open-admission communities already saving 90% or more of their intake, then count them here: http://outthefrontdoor.com/introduction-to-the-blog/ and note that they are all over, in all demographics.

      If they are confused about what to do, there is an online certification class coming up in September that will teach them: http://www.pacific.edu/Academics/Professional-and-Continuing-Education/Programs/Certificate-Programs/Animal-Shelter-Management-Certificate.html

      So, go to the No Kill Advocacy Center’s website and get your shelter reform kit: http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org/shelter-reform/toolkit/

      Looking forward to your success.

  12. Let me add my thoughts here . . .
    Jeff, why don’t you contact other large open admission no kill/low kill facilities and see what they do when these situations happen (and they happen everywhere)? Killing for space (and that’s what happened) is no longer the way true “sheltering” happens. Talk to directors and administrators who have made the decision to stop the killing for space/time/money. There are many of those around. UPAWS in the upper peninsula of Michigan is one I know a bit about. They went from very high kill to practically no kill and that’s not an easy place for lots of people and animals. Check out the Kansas City, Missouri folks – they are doing so well that they have opened a second adoption center. There are many other places that are doing so very well. Don’t waste your time arguing on this site or trying to convince others why those cats were killed. Talk to people who are saving nearly all the animals in their care. Seek out HOW they are making the change from the “catch ’em kill ’em” way of sheltering. And there are plenty out there that continue to do that (MAS, are you listening?)

    1. Thank you db – I will do just that. I agree that it’s a waste of time and energy to argue about a situation that most know nothing firsthand about and seem more inclined to continue down the road of name calling and ridiculous assumptions. I appreciate that most on this site have been civil and polite and, although they may not agree, at least have been willing to hear my point of view and allow me to vent my frustrations. I recognize that I’m essentially in the middle of a beehive and that this can be an emotionally charged topic, but I’ve always felt that reasonable people who all want the same outcome can address their views constructively even when at times we may just have to agree to disagree in certain areas. We all benefit from a constructive discussion and when we listen and learn from different viewpoints. Thank you for your understanding and words of advice.

  13. Jeff, I know someone who lives Gettysburg, and she’s adopted out a number of cats in the York area; I’ve transported a few of them to their new homes for her. Her husband works in York, and he helps with marketing the cats. She charges very low adoption fees and takes the cats to their new homes. If people live further away and don’t want to go to her place to meet the cats, she or a volunteer will take several cats to the person’s home and let them choose one. I took four cats all the way up to a horse farm in Tower City for her a while back, and they chose a lovely cat named Travis. She also sends a bag of food, treats, and toys (all donated by the manufacturers) with the cats. So it is possible to adopt out cats in that area if you try something a little unconventional.

    1. Thank you Anne for your reply and input. The York shelter does have similar programs in place in which several local residents will take many shelter animals into their homes and adopt them out on their own. The results have been very encouraging and more individuals who are willing and able to conduct such efforts are continually being sought. It certainly helps with some of the capacity constraints and increasing the number of adoptions. It would be great to see more of them! Thank you again, and special thanks to your friend for her kindness and compassion.

    2. Jeff, how will the shelter increase the number of people who do this, along with increasing regular fostering opportunities (where the animals are adopted out by the shelter, although they are outside the shelter at the time when someone is interested in meeting that animal)? Just saying and accepting that the shelter has several residents involved in adopting out animals isn’t the best that could be done.

    3. Remember, putting ALL the animals brought into the shelter onto the shelter’s website, with links to Petfinder (or whatever search place your group uses), with a decent picture is so incredibly important to starting the animal off with a good chance to leave the shelter. Then keeping track of which animals are in foster homes, and whether the potential adoption is done by bringing the animal to an off-site location, or back to the shelter to be seen, allows adopters to know the steps needed to see that animal. The animals inside the shelter all need to be visible to potential adopters (unless, and only unless, there’s a really serious threat to public health, should animals be kept away from the public), in as many hours as the shelter can REALLY be open to the public. If volunteers need to be increased so paid staff can be there more hours, that needs to happen. Just saying that paid staff does all the animal care and that’s the reason why the shelter isn’t open more than 4 days a week isn’t good enough. Split the 7 days in a week between paid staff and volunteers so animal care AND adoptions can happen every day, and try to make some of those days have adoption hours past 5pm. Find lead volunteers who can take over whatever staff has been doing that has prevented more open hours – every community has people who can help, but the shelter needs to be a place those people WANT to walk into. Is the shelter and its grounds a nice place, and if not, how can they be improved? Is there a judge in town who might sentence those with minor infractions to do some community service like landscaping, painting, or repairs that the staff can’t spend time on, other than to supervise? How about a community day, where any and all are asked to come and help with outdoor construction – pens and runs where adopters can see animals while those animals get sunshine and exercise make people happier than only being able to see animals in small, dark cages inside, and happy people will support the shelter. Girl and Boy Scout groups, as well as businesses should be asked for ideas and assistance – they will have families whose members can become adopters and/or fosterers, as well as volunteers to improve the shelter. Keep thinking about extra things that will help, and as more ideas occur to work on, more improvements can happen, and more animals will be saved. Again, good luck!

  14. From Countering the Opposition, a publication of the No Kill Advocacy Center: http://bit.ly/YLTSXH

    Half-hearted efforts are not enough. The programs of the No Kill Equation have to be implemented comprehensively so that they completely replace killing.

    Killing is a choice. It is a choice made by the person who runs a shelter to take the easy, uncaring and inhumane way out. No Kill is also a choice. It is a choice made by the person who runs the shelter to replace that killing with alternatives. Its success is therefore directly proportional to the commitment that is made to it. A shelter director who claims to have tried “No Kill,” but who then sent one litter of motherless kittens into a foster home and the other litter into the kill room, has failed to make the necessary level of commitment required to replace killing entirely. In such circumstances, No Kill has not failed. It offered an alternative, a choice—in this case, foster care—that the director willfully chose to disregard in favor of killing. Likewise, a shelter committed to No Kill does not neuter and release some feral cats while killing others. Other than not allowing them to enter shelters in the first place as some communities have done, TNR  becomes the primary lifesaving option for feral cats. A shelter committed to No Kill does not merely allow rescue groups access to animals “some of the time,” but every time a rescue group is willing to take over care and custody of an animal. Indeed, a No Kill shelter actively seeks these groups out.

    Unfortunately, many shelters claim they have tried No Kill but that it did not work. This claim is based on the fact that they may have implemented some or all of the programs, but not enough of them or not to the point that they replace killing. In 2004, for example, one SPCA in a city of 1.5 million people conducted roughly 150 free spay/neuter surgeries for the companion animals of the community’s low-income population. The shelter’s director boasted of a low-cost and free spay/neuter program, but such a token level of surgeries in a large city where one in four people fall below the federal poverty line, will not impact the number of animals entering city shelters. By contrast, another SPCA, in a city with roughly half the population, performed over 9,000 surgeries a year, 84 percent of them for free.
    Similarly, animal control in another community allowed only employees to participate in its foster care program. The shelter claimed it was already implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, but it was excluding thousands of animal lovers from participating in the lifesaving effort, seriously limiting how many lives they saved. And a municipal shelter in yet another community boasted of an offsite adoption program, of which they do two a year, less than a No Kill shelter which does seven offsite locations each and every day.
    At a well-managed No Kill shelter, the size and scope of programs are determined by one thing alone: need. Convenience and traditional sheltering dogma that excuse and condone killing are abandoned in favor of both proven solutions that don’t, and the flexibility and imagination to respond to extraordinary circumstances with similarly extraordinary determination. Successful No Kill shelter directors maintain a commitment to No Kill even in times of crisis or unanticipated circumstances (such as a dog fighting, hoarding or animal cruelty case that might result in a large influx of animals) with creative alternatives to killing that harness the power of the public’s love and compassion for animals. In short, they turn challenges into opportunities, rather than use those challenges as an excuse to kill.

    To achieve No Kill success, therefore, a shelter must implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation not in a piecemeal or in a limited manner, but comprehensively. Shelters must take killing off the table for all savable animals, and utilize the No Kill Equation not sometimes, not merely when it is convenient or politically expedient to do so, but for every single animal, every single time.

  15. I found this on a website about ringworms:

    “There have been several studies that showed that this fungal infection should eventually resolve on its own. Typically, this takes 4 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.”

    Obviously I don’t know how true this is, I haven’t done much research, but…

    My question:
    If a human got poison ivy (or any other skin infection that eventually goes away on it’s own)
    Should we kill the human because they will be uncomfortable for a short period of time (assuming they can’t afford the medication to treat it)?
    Or do you think they would rather wait out the discomfort and continue life?
    Would a cat rather die than wait out an annoying skin infection?

    Personally, I got really bad poison ivy all over my body while working on an archaeological excavation last summer. I decided that while it was incredibly uncomfortable, I would rather continue this incredible gift of life than kill myself because I wasn’t perfectly content. I must say, I’m pretty pleased with that decision, and I think it is terrible to unnecessarily end a life for any reason, especially if that reason is that it has to live in temporary discomfort.

  16. I am wondering about some things happening in some no kill shelters as mentioned above. Money is always an issue. The veterinary costs is a huge problem for shelters. How do the shelters give free spaying to cats in the population? Where does this money come from? I know some shelters here and they make special events of all kinds to raise money, they make events to show their animals during those events, they send animals in other shelters in other provinces, but still in the end have to euthanise animals and that breaks their heart. The cities don’t pay for vet bills and cats reproduce too much. The no kill shelters don’t accept animals when their shelters are full, and some become too full and become not so clean… I think many good suggestions above are helpful, like the Facebook, the website, the special events, but it is not always enough. Often, shelters don’t last because they cannot afford the vet bills anymore or they are just overwhelmed with all the cats coming in more than out to adoption. A lot of shelters just last a few years and have to stop. I think not all places are equal. I think some cities make rules that help, like the need to spay, but in other cities, with cats on farms that reproduce and people having cats who have kittens for their children…How can the shelter afford all treatments? You probably are in United States? i am in Canada, Québec, and the situation here is… so expensive! At 200$ for spaying one cat… I just cannot imagine how a shelter can afford offering it for free or let a cat be adopted for 20$.

  17. Please, I would like to ask this important question, and as a person who once wanted to have my own shelter, this is a question I thought a lot about. I think some very good points were mentioned both by Jeff and also from no-kill shelters. The shelter can improve with all the things mentioned, the Facebook, the pictures of all animals needing to be adopted on the website, being open to make it a place where population can be present to help, all this will result in more animals saved. But there is one quesion that has not been answered yet. And this question is for you all no-kill shelters. Why don’t you make arrangements with those shelters that euthanize animals so YOU can save them. Your words are don’t kill them, but your actions say kill them because we are not going to take them. I think the reason you are not doing it is because you also have limits in the number of animals that you can save. Please tell me if there is something I need to understand, because right now I hear you tell them that you want them to do what you are not doing with those animals that they plan to euthanize. You know it will not be only 36 cats with ringworm. It will be thousands, then the next year, thousands, then the next year thousands… how will you make no-kill for them?

  18. Sylvie, this once well-written blog is now defunct. It has been for several years. It is very sad since the blog owner did so much to shed light on animal abuse in the United States. I don’t know that you will receive a response some 5-1/2 years after this post was published. Obviously, the archives are still available for review and comment. Maybe one day she will resume the blog. Things change; I have left rescue and likely others have as well. Take care.

    1. Thank you Janet. I guess you are right, no one seems to continue to write on this blog. The rescue world is a big challenge. I never opened my rescue because it was too big of a challenge, financially and morally (not able to save all the animals that would come to the rescue). Well, thank you for answering here. Take care.

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