MOUNT VERNON — Improvements are still being made at the Knox County Humane Society cat shelter, with the goal of having a reopening on Feb. 13.
Cat shelter holds open house – February 19, 2008
Population up, money down at cat shelter – December 13, 2008
Cat-astrophe continues – September 25, 2009
Issues at cat shelter may jeopardize dog program – November 10, 2009
No changes in policy at cat shelter – November 19, 2009
Cats saved; layoffs possible – January 4, 2010
Cat shelter investigation continues – January 16, 2010
Group returns cats to shelter – February 2, 2010
According to Dr. Greg Price of Town & Country Veterinary Clinic, the society is working with recommendations passed down by The Ohio State University. The board is also working with Dr. Jeanette O’Quin, DVM, to develop protocols for operating the humane society’s cat shelter.
O’Quin is a graduate of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and has spent much of her career in the field of animal shelter medicine. A public health veterinarian with the Ohio Department of Health, she is active on several committees and serves as president of the board of directors of Association of Shelter Veterinarians.
O’Quin characterizes her input to the local cat shelter as being general guidance. She will not be responsible for writing any kind of report or operating manual for the shelter. She will be giving some general advice, and pointing the society to sources of information and to other organizations which have successful animal rescue programs in place.
O’Quin has previously been involved with the issue of animal shelter overcrowding and the resultant quality-of-life issues. It is a subject she said about which she feels very strongly. She said the situation at the Knox County Humane Society cat shelter is not unique.
“I would say that the alarming increase of shelters across the country being managed in a way that causes overcrowding, increased stress, and severe disease outbreaks, is almost an epidemic,” she said. “This is not about no kill; these same problems are occurring in all shelter types. This is about quality of life — housing animals in a humane manner, and ensuring good health while they wait for a new home.”
O’Quin pointed out that, unlike humans, animals live for the present, not the future. They cannot say to themselves that while they are caged and confined now, that someday they will have a good home. When they are confined and possibly ill, that is their past, present and future.
“A shelter environment where animals become ill and, in some cases, die as a result of being in the shelter, is inhumane and cruel,” she said. “This is something I feel passionately about. Due to the increase of these management practices, and more surprisingly the belief by many shelter managers that this is normal and acceptable, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians developed a task force of 14 shelter medicine experts to write a consensus document on standards of care for Animals in Shelters. It will be published later this year.”
O’Quin said the biggest problem a shelter runs into is that no matter what its size or mission, it cannot safely and humanely house more animals than can be adopted.
“It seems so obvious when you say it,” she said, “but it’s a difficult thing for a lot of people to come to terms with. Pretty soon it is overrun. If you are going to be successful in having a no-kill or low-kill type thing you have to be able to stop taking animals in when you reach your limit. They are out there and can be run very well or run very poorly, and that can result in some sad situations.”
There is no easy answer to finding the right balance, she said, but there is one thing over and above all others that will help the most: A strong and effective spay/neuter program.
“I think spay/neuter and the awareness of the public of the importance of spay/neuter has made a huge difference over the last 20 years,” she said. “And it’s got us to the point where we can invest more resources in individual animals; and that’s a great thing as long as it’s done with care. There is a lot of regional difference is some areas, especially in higher socio-economic classes versus lower socio-economic classes. Some areas, like New Jersey, where they have invested a lot of money in spay/neuter programs, they have seen huge declines in their shelter populations.”
O’Quin cited the example of the Lied Animal Shelter in Las Vegas, Nev. Because of overcrowding, it experienced an outbreak of parvovirus and distemper among dogs and feline panleukopenia among the cats. Ultimately, the shelter had to close, and about 1,000 animals were euthanized.
Although traumatic for most of those involved, this was a move that those in charge of the shelter felt had to be made. The shelter reopened and has had to institute a policy of euthanizing unclaimed animals after holding them for only 72 hours.
The planned Feb. 13 open house at the Knox County Humane Society Cat Shelter is still on schedule, according to David Guffey, chairman of the Knox County Humane Society Board of Directors.
Guffey confirmed the KCHS has been working with O’Quin, but said the developing of new procedures and protocols is still a work in progress. He said it will be shared with the public when finished.