The shelter could not contain the outbreak of the highly contagious fungal infection. "Approximately 60 [of the animals to be euthanized] are dogs, most all of the rest are cats. There are some rabbits, which also speaks to the fact that it has spread from cats to dogs to rabbits," said Rosyln Ryan, spokeswoman for the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. An OSPCA official said the fact the ringworm had spread to the rabbits is of particular concern, because it meant the ringworm was jumping to species not normally susceptible to the disease. Ryan said the ringworm is "particularly aggressive" and it's "not that common."
There is also concern the ringworm could be passed to humans.
Guards placed at shelterKate MacDonald, the OSPCA's chief executive, says the Newmarket branch will undergo a thorough cleansing and an inspection to ensure the ringworm is eradicated before it reopens for adoptions. In the meantime, security guards are stationed at the shelter, apparently to ensure no one tries to rescue the doomed animals. MacDonald says the OSPCA does "not take euthanasia lightly" and is "extremely saddened by the situation." In animals, ringworm causes small patches of hair loss and skin discolouration. Animals begin scratching and break the skin, attempting to get relief. Veterinarians say an outbreak inside an animal shelter can quickly become unmanageable. Ryan said shelter staff sought extensive advice and found that euthanizing the animals was the only option. The final decision was made by OSPCA veterinarians. "It is heartbreakingly difficult for those front-line workers and volunteers who work with these animals day in and day out. It's a heart-wrenching situation for us all," said Ryan.
OSPCA takes 'easy solution': Toronto society headToronto Humane Society president Bob Hambley says, however, that ringworm is treatable and this type of action is unprecedented. He says the OSPCA is "taking the easy solution," and should consult with outside experts to look at alternatives to save the animals. Hambley adds in a statement that MacDonald has "failed in her duties to protect animals and should immediately step down." Hambley's accusation follows an OSPCA raid on the Toronto shelter last November in which five senior managers were charged with animal cruelty.
The dispute between the two sides was settled last month, and the shelter is due to reopen on June 1 with a new slate of directors.