The Newmarket SPCA in Ontario, Canada, under fire for plans to euthanize 350 animals held at its shelter, announced it has stopped killing the animals in its care.
Receiving heavy criticism over its decision to euthanize 350 animals for a ringworm outbreak, the Newmarket SPCA had begun to back-peddle on its decision Wednesday, announcing it would evaluate animals on a case-by-case basis. Fifty animals were killed on Tuesday, and it is thought that close to 50 more were killed on Wednesday. But the remaining 250 or so animals will be spared, the shelter announced in a mid-morning press conference Thursday, reported the Toronto Star.
The press conference was scheduled for Thursday by the York Region SPCA. In a document [PDF] written for the conference, the shelter said it had been fighting the ringworm infection since February 2010. Kate MacDonald, the CEO and spokesperson for the shelter, said only 50 animals had been put down, 2 dogs and 48 cats. However, MPP Frank Klees, who jumped into the fight to save the shelter animals Tuesday, said on his website that 99 animals had been killed.
MacDonald said the shelter did not know how bad the ringworm infection was until May 10th. MacDonald insists that the euthanization was undertaken because of the risk to public health the problem posed, saying "Now that animals and people are infected, it is not only an animal welfare issue but a public health issue too. We cannot risk contamination within other parts of the community. We are legally and morally bound to ensure that the contaminant is contained."
The York Region SPCA remained defiant, insisting the only way to deal with the infection was to put down all the animals in the shelter's care, saying "This isn’t about funding. This is about containing an outbreak of a virulent strain of ringworm. We all agree that ringworm is treatable; however, in an animal shelter scenario it is much more challenging to get it under control, and the York Region Shelter has been fighting this since February, 2010."
Klees celebrated the reversal of the York Region SPCA decision saying "This is the right thing to do. It's just unfortunate that it's two days late. Now we have to ensure that we get to the bottom of how we got here and ensure this never happens again."UPDATE May 13, 1:30 pm:
The York Region SPCA has confirmed that it did indeed euthanize 99 animals earlier this week. The organization has published an explanation of its position on the website, while cancelling its fund raising walk-a-thon that was to be held this weekend. The OSPCA is now fighting for credibility after the York Region shelter decided it would not euthanize any further animals.
In the statement the York SPCA said "The decision to humanely euthanize affected animals was made on the best clinical and medical evidence available to us." The statement goes on to justify the actions taken, and what the shelter is doing now to sanitize the shelter, as well as care for the remaining animals. Of the original 352 animals at the shelter, less the animals already disposed of through euthanasia, "... 96 animals have been fostered out to other accredited agencies, clinics, shelters and institutions capable of caring for them in isolation from other animals; 15 animals have been stolen; 15 animals who are not affected by the outbreak are in isolation in a portable structure on the site; 23 dogs and 91 cats need to be tested further. We are seeking temporary shelter for these animals for up to a month."
At the news conference this morning, reports CTV, the York Region SPCA said it had not clearly communicated with the public about how many animals would be put down, leading the public to believe 350 animals would be disposed of in order to deal with the virulent ringworm outbreak.
The public, while happy to hear that over 100 animals will be spared, are angry. One sign posted at the shelter say "This is what our donations dollars did?"
The head of the OSPCA, Rob Godfrey now claims that less than 350 animals actually had ringworm. He promised the full report following the investigation would be released to the public.