PLEASANTVILLE - Major building, staff, health check and policy changes are underway as a Newmarket-area animal shelter — closed 10 months after a ringworm outbreak — prepares to reopen.
Although several dates were discussed, the York Region branch of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals won’t likely begin accepting animals again in “about two months,” Alison Cross predicted Thursday.
Until then, seized, surrendered and stray pets will continue to be received, checked by employees and veterinarians at several portable trailers behind the Woodbine Ave. building, the OSPCA spokesman said. Contrary to a protester’s claims outside, she said remodelling was planned for 2011 before a ringworm outbreak resulted in 102 dogs and cats destroyed last May.
After 10 years as an animal shelter, adoption and pet medical centre, Cross said renovations “were definitely necessary. “We never want to be in that position again,” she said of the devastating outbreak. Extensive cleaning resulted in “severe damage,” and more expansive repairs were needed — including ripping up wooden floors, replacing or fixing cracked doors and installing new drains, to prevent any of the fungi surviving, she said. Cross couldn’t cite costs, but said outreach to sponsors raised more than $150,000.
When reopened, fewer animals will be housed, with an expanded emphasis on adoptions, helping people choose compatible pets, increased neutering to reduce unwanted animal “over-population,” plus public teaching programs that will include grooming lessons. “We’re in the business of saving lives, we’re in the business of finding homes,” Cross said. “We’re doing good things for animal welfare.”
She said the OSPCA name will expand to include “Provincial Educational and Animal Agency,” as a reflection of the changes, which were conducted in consultation with other animal care agencies and experts in Canada and the U.S.
A public protest halted planned destruction of 350 animals. More than 200 were sent to “accredited agencies,” for review by veterinarians before being adopted out, Cross said. Calling the outbreak “human error,” the OSPCA laid off 26 attendants with promises of rehiring, and manager Denise Stephenson was fired. Stephenson insisted procedures were followed, claiming she was made a “scapegoat.” CEO Kate MacDonald later told reporters a “not willful” breach of protocols occurred.
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