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.)