Animal activists rallying outside the York Region SPCA where more than 300 ringworm-infected animals are being put down say their protest will not cease until the cats and dogs are saved.
Shelter officials confirmed Wednesday morning that about 20 of the infected pets have been isolated in the hope that they may respond to treatment, but that plans remain to euthanize other sick animals.
Picketing outside the Newmarket, Ont. facility with cardboard signs, bamboo crosses, flowers and drums, about a dozen activists called on politicians to intervene.
"McGuinty is going to suffer from not reacting to this…If I knew a lawyer who could make an injunction here, I would have this stopped. Why don't they just stop and rethink what they're doing? There is a way to stop it," one protestor told CTV News.
On Tuesday, Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said he supports the conclusion of experts that euthanasia is necessary.
Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection that is easily spread to humans. Six shelter workers have contracted ringworm.
Dr. Jim Berry, a New Brunswick veterinarian and member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, said it is extremely difficult to rid cats and dogs of ringworm when they live in a closed, warm, moist environment such as a shelter.
"In a shelter where we're dealing with dogs and cats which people know as pets, people are thinking individual animals. The reality is the medicine involved and the decisions involved often come down to a population basis," he said in a telephone interview with ctvtoronto.ca.
"It does not sound nice to depopulate or euthanize (about) 350 animals, but strictly speaking from a health perspective point of view, that may be the most humane, the most rational decision to be made."
Officials from both the Toronto and Durham Humane Societies decried the decision of the SPCA officials to put down the animals, pointing to their previous success containing outbreaks.
Two uniformed York Regional Police officers are monitoring Wednesday's protest.