350 dead animals.
Thousands of pissed off members and pet owners.
Another animal welfare organization with its reputation shot.
I hope the OSPCA reconsiders what they are about to do.
Ringworm infestation in a shelter is no walk in the park. It never should have gotten that bad. People royally fucked up. But, the plan to cull all the animals at the York Region OSPCA shelter is like trying to cover up a big pile of crap with a bigger pile of crap.
I don't say this because I think I have easy answers for controlling and quelling ringworm outbreaks in a shelter environment. Everything I've been reading about this from reputable sources tells me that the protocols needed are tough and demanding and some animals can take up to 6 months to be cured if at all. It's not just a matter of rubbing some cream on a few lesions. Nor is it just a matter of getting some nice people to come round and foster the animals for a while until they get better.
The OSPCA is worried about the zoonotic aspect of ringworm. Transference might be rare (I don't know) but it does happen. What if the foster's child picks up the ringworm from the foster cat? The child gets lesions and the parent has to take time off from work to bring the child to the doctor for meds. The other kids in the child's class also need to be told to watch out for lesions and not to touch the child so that they don't get infected. The parent has to disinfect the house from top to bottom because even though the cat has been kept in a cage in the kitchen, the child has been all over. The parent doesn't do such a great job and six months later, the child gets ringworm again. The parent gets pissed off and decides to sue the OSPCA for knowingly fostering out a ringworm infested animal even though he signed a release form.
The OSPCA is also thinking about all the animals that they could be saving but can't because they'd have to keep the York facility closed to intakes for weeks to months while there are ringworm contaminated animals residing there. Sure, they could have protocols in place to try to reduce the spread of infection to new animals but whatever protocols were there obviously didn't work or weren't followed. By wiping the slate clean, they would have the facility disinfected and up and running again in a week or two.
Yes, there are probably other reasons as well why the OSPCA would want to get rid of all the animals at their York facility but unless all the animals there are deathly ill from other underlying diseases, none of these reasons are good enough. These reasons don't balance out the animal lives lost. These reasons don't balance out the human cost. They don't balance out the collective guilt, anger, despair we will all feel knowing that another organization people entrusted to look after the welfare of animals has messed up in such a big way.
There are risks with trying to save animals from a ringworm infested facility. In animal welfare, though, there will always be risks. An adopted out dog might bite, a cat might scratch, a bunny might ... chew on a table leg (?). You do what you can to protect yourself against liability while adopting out as many animals as you can but this isn't just a numbers game.
The currency of animal welfare is compassion. Compassion supersedes risk, supersedes cash flow, supersedes even the logic of numbers. Compassion says you do not kill the old dog in front of you so that some other possibly more adoptable dog can have its cage space. Compassion says you do not euthanize a sick animal simply because it's cheaper to bring in and adopt out healthy ones. Compassion doesn't make sense but you still have to make room for it. Without compassion, it's not an animal welfare facility. It's a factory. People don't donate to factories, they buy widgets from them.
There is a risk with trying to save these sick animals but if the OSCPA doesn't try to save at least some of them, they risk losing the organization's appearance of compassion and once that's gone, they'd better have some pretty fancy widgets to sell.
Update: How you can help.