Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One in three hundred

I can't look at the pictures. Talking about the deaths of three hundred plus animals is a lot easier than even looking at the picture of one being lead to what might be its last few moments of life. The worst part is how trusting they are. That Husky, eagerly jumping over the low barricade for the person in the head to toe biohazard suit, happily going for a walk with her.

I couldn't do what that person is doing and this isn't a case of me pretending to be morally superior. It's weakness if anything. I once thought about being a vet and then quickly realized that I'd never be able to euthanize animals on a regular basis. Vets have to be made of hardier stuff.

I happened to be taking Stella to see one of those vets today. Trying to get a sense of this super Ringworm strain which the OSPCA claim has infected the animals in their Newmarket facility and thus requiring mass euthanasia, I brought it up with the vet and the vet techs in the room with us.

They didn't come out fully and say so but I could tell they were sympathetic to the situation the Newmarket OSCPA is currently in and there were no outright condemnations of the OSPCA's methods. I left it at that because when dealing with people who have the well-being of my dog in their hands, I didn't really want to get into any kind of involved discussion with them which might throw them off the task at hand.

This short exchange did lead me to wonder if perhaps the OSPCA does have some sort of valid justification for what they are doing in Newmarket and are just being extremely inept at getting the reasons across to the public or rather is it perhaps that a lot of vets are just desensitized to euthanasia. I suppose vets have to be desensitized to a certain degree. A surgeon can't perform surgery if she gets queasy everytime she cuts someone open. And I'd most rather have a vet cool, calm and collected when it comes time for my own dogs to go than someone whose bawling their eyes out along with me.

The OSPCA is saying the decision to cull the three hundred plus animals at the Newmarket shelter is a veterinary one and management does not interfere with veterinary decisions especially when there is a public health risk involved. But in a shelter situation, where dozens of animal are euthanized weekly, hundreds if not thousands annually, can a vet become too desensitized to the point where euthanasia becomes a common and convenient alternative to treatment?

Three hundred animals put down at once is a lot but how long would it have taken the Newmarket shelter to put down that many animals under "normal" circumstances? If they're anything like a typical North American shelter, not long would be my guess. A month? Two months? I protest when I hear three hundred animals might be euthanized and yet if they are like a lot of shelters, they may very well kill thousands or more a year (Animal Shelter Euthanasia at the American Humane website). Even if this particular shelter doesn't, others more than compensate.

Vets inside shelters must be accustomed to those high numbers of euthanasias otherwise how could they continue to work in those environments? Coping mechanisms must kick in. 300 deaths is a lot but maybe it's a molehill, not a mountain, for a shelter, for any shelter accustomed to death as most must be.

My brain is too small to comprehend 300 deaths. I just look at the doomed individual animals and that's hard enough. I hope for the best for those remaining creatures at the Newmarket OSPCA but I know they are only the tip of a sorrowful iceburg which has this week broken the surface into our la la la happy petland dreamstate. Next week, the tip may be hidden again, but the iceburg will still be there and getting larger by the day.

Updated news on the ongoing Newmarket OSPCA cull at The Star, OSPCA fundraiser cancelled over protests.


Laura HP said...

I think it's heartbreaking, this situation, but I think the reaction to it is extraordinarily narrow-minded. All those people screaming 'murderer' at the OSPCA workers and vets...they aren't screaming 'murderer' at every single worker at every single shelter that's ever put down that many animals. No one addresses the larger issue of why those animals are there in the first place. Yes, it's awful that so many animals are being put down at once, I would never dispute that, and I have no idea if they're really justified or not. But it's a shame that people are throwing this much effort and coverage into one incident, only to forget about the larger issue as soon as it blows over.

Elizabeth B said...

Overreact much? Seriously hazmat suites?? You have to be kidding me. RIP to all those lovely dogs who are dieing because the OSPCA didn't want to bother to even attempt to treat them.

Recently we had strep zoo in our local shelter. Its contagious but instead of doing a mass killing the dogs were put on antibiotics then moved out of the building and into less then perfect conditions. But we kept them alive. The shelter was sterilized top to bottom and they contacted the public for help and boy did they recieve it. People and rescues came together and saved those animals. I honestly feel the OSPCA is being jsut plain lazy, because I've witnessed other shelters make an effort and I haven't seen it from the OSPCA. Shame On Them.

YesBiscuit! said...

I respectfully disagree Fred. There is no justification for killing any friendly/treatable pet, regardless of whether you place it in the context of "everybody's doing it".

Eileen said...

Fred, you write a wonderful blog and I know you're doing your best to be fair to everyone concerned. But you're being much too generous toward the OSPCA here. I agree with the poster who said this isn't euthanasia and shouldn't be treated as such. I also find it shocking that some of your commentators have defended this indefensible massacre. I hope no one who supports this slaughter has anything to do with the rebuilding of the Toronto Humane Society ... or the OSPCA, which evidently also needs rebuilding.

I think the sponsors did the right thing by withdrawing their support. I hope the OSPCA can eventually win it back ... under new leadership.

K said...

The whole thing makes me sick.

These are healthy animals.

These are healthy animals.

Theses are healthy animals.

Yes, ringworm is contagious. Yes, humans can catch it. But it is not an illness, it is not harmful.

These are healthy animals.


One bright note:

Driving into work this morning, I heard the radio personalities on Q107 discussing this story. And you know what? 10 years ago, this wouldn't be news. 5 years ago, this wouldn't be news. Even a couple of years ago, this probably wouldn't be news, or at least not to the point where disc jockeys from rock station were discussing it in a serious, sympathetic manner.

This sucks to the highest degree, but at least people are aware that it sucks - we can't keep things like this under the covers any more, and maybe THAT will lead to desperately needed changes in the shelter community.

One can only grasp what little hope there is.

Michelle said...

Hello - I just came across your blog while trying to get updated information about the animals in Newmarket. I just can't understand how they have not used this situation to gain more of the public's help and support - so many people would be more than willing to ban together and help. It's a real heartache because part of me wants to say it will be a cold day in you-know-where before I donate any funds to OSPCA again but in my heart I know it will only hurt the chances for future animals but how many people with just flat out cut their donations? Their PR people better start doing some damage control or they will be up a river...Thanks again for sharing your very thoughtful opinions. (btw I agree with you on the dropping the subject with your vet and vet techs - I would have too! lol) I hope this will have a better ending than how it looks so far!

Anonymous said...

Fred, I had the same thoughts when seeing the photos. The sad reality is that at one point in its life that husky had a name & likely was loved by its owner/owners. Then, as too often the case, something went tragically wrong. Every day we are greeted by the daily litany of misery in the animal welfare community. Our meager effort seems like a mere drop in the bucket when confronted with the staggering numbers and horrifying circumstances that seem to cascade upon those engaging in the fight. We can choose to not look at the photos, we can click to happier outcomes, but we're also haunted by lives needlessly cut short and overwhelmed by an eager animal unwittingly headed to a dark destiny. Sometimes its simply unbearable. If we claim to be civilised, we must do better. I don't know how we engender that in the broader society where we have failed our fellow creatures so often and so terribly.

Heather B said...

HI Fred, I like the fact you are trying to reason with this issue within yourself and share with us.
I had questioned my local paper as to why they hadn`t bothered to cover this needless mass killing and this was their answer to me.
"We're a community daily and our focus, as such, is almost exclusively
on local and regional news. Newmarket is far outside of our coverage
area. Doing a quick survey of other community dailies in our chain,
including the Simcoe Reformer, Northumberland Today and even the
larger Kingston Whig Standard, they are also not covering the protest
in Newmarket"
The media just isnt getting it here.
This was about an unjust slaughter.
Media sucks . My local paper doesn`t care to inform my community on these matters.

Anonymous said...

Details of the funeral march to commemmorate the 99 dead, to be held this Sunday, May 16 at 1300 Elgin Mills Road East at 10 a.m., are posted on Kijiji. (This is taking place instead of the OSPCA "Friends for Life" walkathon).

Anonymous said...

If animal shelters had to account publicly for every single animal entrusted to their care maybe fewer would be put to sleep(killed). If it was in the public's face rather than hidden maybe more people would adopt maybe more would be done by shelter workers to reduce the killing. All shelters should be required to show weekly indivually(maybe with a picture) all animals that die in their care. No more "Out of site out of mind" no more :but it might affect our donations". If every animal is precious which most of these organizations claim when they are looking for money then be transparent with the fate of all animals. This should be a requirement for all shelters if they are to retain their charitable status.

Fred said...

YesBiscuit, Selkie, Eileen, it was not at all my intention (though apparently it's had that affect) to justify or even minimize the actions of the OSPCA in Newmarket nor am I trying to criticize all vets or even any particular vets for decisions they may have made.

I'm trying to put this particular incident in context with the larger, much more deadly and yet accepted (at least very few people are protesting it) culture of the killing of "excess" animals in our shelters. It's not just Newmarket OSPCA and it's not just this one incident. It's everywhere and it's all the time. Hopefully, this incident will open more people's eyes to the constant assembly line of euthanization that goes on in too many of our shelters.

redstarcafe said...

(redstarcafe, you're right. I did have to edit this one though I know who you're referring to and her rep)

With all due respect to veterinarians, they cannot be making these decisions in a vacuum. In this case, they may have been working within the flawed framework provided by the OSPCA board and management that permits a 50+% kill rate (more for cats) to be considered acceptable.

That said, you have vets who span the entire spectrum of beliefs about euthanasia, which is why standards are important. (OSPCA's standards of killing for convenience don't cut it for this blogger).

hopy said...

Fred, for the record I didn't read the post as justification at all - more as a kind of despairing musing. It's also how I feel about the state of animal welfare in this province/country/world about 90% of the time.

Social Mange said...

I'm with Hopy, this post sounded like musing on the subject and the broader issue of euth in shelters. I really like this post.

I don't think all the people screaming "murder!" and making threats have stopped to think how negatively they are affecting the average person's perception of the issue and of their stance. The screamers are coming across as looney toons crackpots and alienating the average person rather than eliciting their support.

Yes, it's an emotional issue but in order to get the average person onside one has to present fact and reason, preferably backed up by financial proof that saving the animals is more cost-effective than killing them. As always, money talks and the average person understands and responds to a rational or money issue better than an over-the-top emotional response.

Cold? Perhaps. Hard-won knowledge? Yes.

Lynda said...

Ditto to what hopy said.


Joanne said...

(This comment has been edited.)

"In her press conference Tuesday, OSPCA CEO Kate MacDonald, who earned $162,407 in 2009 along with $30,673 in taxable benefits, did not reveal how much the society had spent to battle the ringworm outbreak before deciding to euthanize 350 animals." from the Toronto Star this morning. Are we kidding......nearly $200,000 and this person can come up with no better solution than to euthanize (huamnely - what a joke that is) 350 animals. She should have to pay for their treatment out of her own money to make up for the incompetence of the organization she heads and failed to halt this infestation when it first started. The only way this spread through the shelter was by employees not following protocol, not sanitizing their hands between treating animals (as manifested by the fact that they took it home to their families), not changing clothes or disinfecting their shoes, etc. They should all have to pay for the treatment and care of these animals. But no, now we are hearing that one is a scapegoat (how nice, the only time she speaks out is in her own self-defence and to whine about how she has been railroaded) and the other (Godfrey) has the unmitigated gall to show up with his personal pet while others are being euthanized in the shelter he runs as chairman. What a load of crap....did he think we would all capitulate and think what a great animal lover he is and he is saddened by the animals that had to be euthanized so far. Not half as saddened as they are...they are dead hypocritical sadness does nothing for them now....if you had any common decency or shame over the lousy job you did here, you would resign......

Anonymous said...

I agree with Laura with the first comment

If people would stop abandoning their pets and treating them like crap there wouldn't be 350 animals at risk right now.(and yes that is a small amount compared to the 10s of thousands that are euthanized, needlessly, in shelters in North America every year!! even just one is one too many. If it were the law to spay and neuter all domestic pets there wouldn't be such a huge overpopulation problem in domestic pets, especially cats. There is definitely a problem with the bigger picture here and, if anything, may be this will wake people up and encourage them to save and rescue from a shelter next time they are considering getting a new pet. For now I just sit here and pray for all the sweet souls we have lost this week at the OSPCA. I am truly heartbroken and those pictures, especially the Husky, have made me absolutely sick!


Meaghan Edwards said...

Susan said it the best. Yes, it is tragic that these animals have lost their lives, but it's also tragic that there are literally pages and pages of BYBers pumping out their litters on Kijiji and the like. My attempts to educate them have gone no where; something needs to be done.

mar6cats said...

This is horrible. Yes, ringworm can be a pain to treat, but it's TREATABLE! I think all of the people who made this decision should be ashamed, very ashamed. Wonder how you can sleep at night.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with your comment about calm and cool vets. I think there is a "best of both worlds" scenario that is ideal.

I rescued an abandoned kitten from a friend's back yard when he was two days old. I left him in kitty daycare at the vet's while I was at work so they could feed him every two hours.

When he got FIP and needed to be euthanized six months later, the vet managed to be clinically cool and calm, but she had tears in her eyes and a crack in her voice, and a few tears spilled over onto her cheeks.

She didn't become an inept, bumbling fool. She was still and incredible medical practitioner and the whole process went as smoothly as possible. But she let me know that she felt my pain, that she loved my animal deeply and *personally*, and that she cared so, so, so much. And that made me feel safer somehow, to know that the hands that took my little Pingu from this world were about as loving as you could get without being mine.

I think that is something we should all hope for for our animals, and even our human loved ones.