Thursday, March 24, 2011

York Region OSPCA Branch Set To Reopen Nearly One Year After Ringworm Outbreak

The York Region branch of the OSPCA is set to re-open as a complete animal centre, although it’s not clear exactly when that will happen.

Closed more than 10 months, there still isn’t a definitive  re-opening date for the centre.  “Things take time,” society chief operating officer Jim Sykes said.  “And this is worth taking the time for. We needed time to get it right. If we opened a month later (after the initial ringworm outbreak), then we would not have gotten it right. It’s like ordering kitchen cabinets. When do they ever come on time?” But the shelter is close to reopening, he added.

The new provincial education and animal centre is a bright building with hospital-grade flooring throughout the 6,000-square-foot space.  The refurbishing project, dubbed Our Pet Project, cost between $200,000 and $250,000, which came  from the society’s reserve funds.  The cost includes about $80,000 for a new floor put in place twice and $40,000 to re-configure stainless steel cages and install stainless steel equipment in the newly designed animal triage centre, Mr. Sykes said.

The society was also given a $25,000 donation at the time of the ringworm outbreak from animal food producer Iams. The society aimed to match the donation but was able to leverage about $150,000 from donors instead, Mr. Sykes said. “For more than 130 years, we have been doing good work,” he said. “The donation shows that our donors still believe in us. We’re going to continue to show the public that we deserve their trust.”

Not only did the branch install new flooring – the floor was installed twice after the first floor did not meet the society’s specifications – that was poured in place and is one piece, the society also removed all porous materials, such as carpeting and wood. And all animals toys, climbing and sleeping areas are made of plastic resin. There is colourful, playful art on the walls, such as tennis balls in the dog rooms and balls of yarn in the cat rooms. Climbing houses for cats are made with PVC pipes and cat clouds, or perching places, are made with synthetic material that are attached with magnets and can be washed and sterilized. “Soft surfaces such as wood and carpet are impossible to disinfect,” Mr. Sykes said. “When you clean it, you clean it. Animal shelters are such a gloomy and sad place. We wanted to create a bright and inviting space.”

The animal centre also includes an education centre, workshop and training space and a pet spa and grooming area. The old wood post, where donors plaques were displayed, was removed and replaced with a 60-inch plasma TV that will feature scrolling and updated donor statuses. “We want people to come here and learn about animal care,” Mr. Sykes said. “The space is bright and shiny and we have nothing to hide. The renovations also limited the centre’s animal capacity to house about 155 animals, he added.

The new pet spa is the former branch manager’s office. “We didn’t take animal space to put in a pet spa,” he said. “By lowering our holdings, we can manage animals without incident of disease. Many people think the more we hold the better. But the more we hold the more likely there will be disease again.” Close to five million animals die each year in Canada because of lack of overcrowding in shelters, Mr. Sykes added.

Along with physical renovations, the society also introduced several new animal protocols to ensure another case that had more than 100 animals euthanized last year from happening again. The society created an infection and disease control manual, which took more than six months to complete, will be available for each OSPCA branch and affiliate shelters.