MOUNT VERNON — Angst over the recent euthanization of infected cats dominated Tuesday night’s monthly meeting of the Knox County Humane Society at Emeritus at HillenVale, offset by determination to avoid similar situations in the future. Society President Randy White chaired the meeting, which was attended by about 25 people including board members, employees and society members.
On Nov. 23, a decision was made to put down 36 cats and kittens, and close the cat shelter on Columbus Road for cleaning and disinfecting. Some pathology reports are still outstanding, but it is thought that bordatella, the same bug that causes kennel cough in dogs, was responsible for the outbreak of upper-respiratory infections.
Bordatella is airborne, highly infectious and especially dangerous for kittens. Treatment with antibiotics was an option for the cats on hand when the outbreak began, but would have meant placing the shelter under quarantine for a month or more while suspending intake and neutering of new animals.
“No one wanted this,” White said, “but there wasn’t a lot of choice. I think we did the right thing.” Dr. Greg Price of the Town and Country Veterinary Clinic assisted the humane society with the outbreak and also told the News that euthanizing the cats was a difficult but correct course of action.
A similar situation occurred at the shelter in 2009, and concern was expressed that the society may lose public confidence. It was agreed that protocols which were developed several years ago were too cumbersome and had fallen out of use, and that board oversight of shelter operations should be stepped up.
New protocols have been prepared with the help of Dr. Becky Page of Town and Country and are in effect. The entire facility was disinfected, and all ductwork cleaned, before the shelter again began accepting animals. An isolation room cut off from the building’s heating system is being built on the shelter’s lower level.
Shelter director Anna Hess explained that all arriving cats and kittens undergo a thorough preliminary health check and vaccinations, and that a nasal vaccine has been added to the protocol. She said animals will be kept isolated for two to three days and receive a second health check before moving into the cat population and being made available for adoption.
“We can’t change what has happened, but we can let our actions speak as we do what needs to be done,” board member Mary Anne Pomputius said.
A health-care professional and cat lover stressed to the group that the same “universal precautions” employed by hospitals and nursing homes should be applied in animal facilities. Frequent and thorough hand washing and use of gloves, gowns and masks help prevent the spread of disease. Use of potent quaternary disinfectants also provides much better protection than standard cleaning products or bleach.
“This has been a horrendous situation, but we will learn from it,” White said.
In other business, board member Thom McComb reported that attendance at bingo games hosted by AMVETS on South Ohio Avenue is up by 15 percent. The bingo games benefit the humane society and are held on Thursdays from 7 to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 4 to 7 p.m. Doors open two hours earlier. Another fund-raiser, a crafts fair hosted last weekend by the Kenyon Athletic Center in Gambier, netted $1,647 for the society from sponsorships and product sales.
The society is preparing to roll out a TNR project — Trap, Neuter and Release — with financial assistance from PetSmart. The object is to trap feral and barn cats and spay or neuter them before returning them to their habitat. Board members will work on ways to raise public awareness of the program.
Tuesday night’s agenda included board elections for 2013, but they were postponed until February, following a nominating committee report in January. Continuing to serve as officers in the meantime will be President Randy White, Chairperson Carole Rennie Jarvis and Secretary Hayes Stone. The office of treasurer is currently vacant. Remaining board members are Thom and Ellen McComb, Martha Otto, William and Mary Anne Pomputius and Jackie Urban.
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