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Feline Distemper or Panleukopenia Prevention and Outbreak Management

Make certain the instructions for mixing disinfectants, the proper contact time and rinsing are followed. (Bleach should remain in surface contact for 5-10 minutes for maximum efficacy before rinsing.)

- ASPCA bolts/sheltermedicine/2.21.10.txt

Honesty / Stewardship
Presenting Information to the Public 

Is there any relation between how the monies are used by an animal shelter and how the animals are managed? Speaking of shelter, I thought a "shelter" was a "safe haven?"  What are the observations on how panleukopenia was addressed with the recent "depopulation" of 100 cats at the Humane Society of Indianapolis?

Loaded questions. Let's take one at a time.

Is there any relation between how the monies are used by an animal shelter and how the animals are managed?

We can only witness what we see and not be fooled by what we are told. Fortunately the public is becoming more and more alert to recognizing the substance of performance of an agency against the image it works so hard to project.  Unfortunately - but to be expected - there are agencies (and people are the agency) who say one thing but do another.  If such an organization worked as hard on its policies, procedures and truthfulness of information as it does on its superficial self-promotion we would be seeing  movement to higher ground. 

Dishonesty in business or the uttering of lies causes inner sorrow  - Sikhism. Adi Granth, Maru Solahe

Speaking of shelter, I thought a "shelter" was a "safe haven?" 

The sanctity of life can be marginalized in a so called, "humane" shelter. An animal entering such a place has less than a 50% chance of coming out alive.

Adding further contempt to the hoodwinking of the public is a commonly heard mantra, "adoptions are up, euthanasia is down."  This is a clever and fuzzy marketing message that sends a picture that things are looking better for animals.  The method of arriving at these numbers would give heartburn to even the most forgiving statistician.  Numbers impress donors, foundations and board of directors.  A statistician will get no closer to evaluating animal flow numbers in an animal shelter embracing this ideology as will a forensic accountant get to the books of an organization with a vanishing treasury that is siphoning money from a public charitable trust fund.

What are your observations on how the recent panleukopenia "outbreak" was addressed by the "depopulation" of  over 100 cats at the shelter?
HSI Depopulates all adoptable cats

The "depopulating" of over 100 cats because of their exposure to a symptomatic cat(s) borders on the obscene.  It mirrors the values embraced by the decision makers of the agency and is a reckless betrayal too profound to capture with words.

Let's take a careful look at the word selection to describe this act.  "Depopulation" is a euphemism chosen to sanitize the magnitude of the decision to destroy an entire pavilion of cats, many of whom were asymptomatic and could well have had preexisting immunity. 

Now let's look at the conflict of information that was delivered to the public surrounding this event:

The agency official said they "...obviously conferred with Animal Control [Indianapolis Animal Care and Control], Hamilton County..."

This was refuted by IACC officials.
HSI Depopulates all adoptable cats

The agency official said, "It would probably take a year" ... to weed out the virus had they not euthanized, adding that they didn't have the staff resources to test every cat for panleukopenia.
HSI Depopulates all adoptable cats

...and even more from the agency web site: is this:

"The panleukopenia virus is very stable and is resistant to many chemicals. It can remain infectious at room temperature for as long as one year."

The attempt is being made by agency officials to justify the decision of killing  over 100 cats in relation to the stability of the virus in the environment.  The fact is, the virus can persist in the environment for up to a year without disinfection. 

When addressing an infectious disease in an animal housing environment there is a disinfection procedure. Here is the disinfecting instructions for panleukopenia from the ASPCA:

Make certain the instructions for mixing disinfectants, the proper contact time and rinsing are followed. (Bleach should remain in surface contact for 5-10 minutes for maximum efficacy before rinsing.)  

My friend wrote the agency expressing her disgust with their decision to kill all these healthy cats and she received this reply from the executive director:

"We, too, are angry and disappointed about the options available to an animal shelter when something like this occurs."   

It sounds like we are being told to believe that killing all these non-sick, adoptable cats was the only option.  Is that true?

Let's look at two reputable sources on this:  "Shelter Medicine" and "Veterinary Information Network"  and see what experts in the field of shelter medicine have to say about addressing panleukopenia in a shelter environment: "Shelter Medicine" from the UC Davis Shelter Medicine Program is world renowned for its expertise in shelter medicine:

"Quarantine and isolate all at-risk cats for 14 days."

"Veterinary Information Network"

"With the current vaccines and state of available treatments, no cat should die of panleukopenia... and certainly no cat should be euthanized because it is being housed with a panleuk cat..."   "Your main problem is not panleuk... it is the lack of knowledge by those making important decisions."  Jack Broadhurst, DVM

"...even if a cat actually did test positive... so what?  In a shelter situation with unvaccinated animals and animals of questionable status coming in and out all the time, what is so startling that they might have had a case of panleuk?  The virus can also be passing through a completely asymptomatic animal."  Alice M. Wolf, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP.

"The first step in population control is that staff realize that almost all animals are vulnerable to infection during the first week of residence in a shelter regardless of vaccination, and that some animals incubating the infections will enter the shelter regularly."   "At any point if the animal appears sick, it should be removed away from the healthy population." - Janet E. Foley DVM, PhD,

"The wave of the disease should burn itself out if you don't add new susceptible cats."
 -Alice M. Wolf, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP,


I heard that the Hamilton County shelter experienced panleukopenia.  What did they do?

Hamilton County did what is recommended by those familiar with managing the disease in a shelter environment.  They...
1. Isolated the sick cat 
2. Quarantined the preexisting exposed and asymptomatic cats for the 2 week incubation period (even asking for the donation of extra crates for this purpose),
3. Performed aggressive disinfection and practiced infection control measures.

Then why would, 1) a so called "humane" society choose to kill all these cats and, 2) why would the public not be given accurate information?

To answer the first part of your question... 
Killing animals requires less effort and less money than not. When an agency is struggling with a cash flow issue in concert with confusion of direction, we will see manipulated justification for this kind of performance.  Killing animals and justifying it with misleading information is repulsive and unacceptable.  It is an insult to the genuine sincerity of agency staff, volunteers and donors of the community.

In response to the second part of your question...

Providing misguided information is the product of a culture with an aversion to honesty.  It suggests an underlying pathology.  Something is amiss. It can be motivated by insecurity and/or the need to "cover up."

Calculated promotion of misinformation in animal welfare, or any venue, violates trust and alienates friends and supporters. It embarrasses the dignity of our humanity and points to a broken compass that is an illness of spirit. In this particular arena, the end result is misdirected dollars and the perpetual and senseless killing of innocent animals.

How depressing. What is the answer when an animal care agency gives us misleading information?

Get the facts. Look beyond the smiley face and cuddled dog picture sending a fuzzy message while asking for money. Investigate behind the scenes. Too often too many people take for face value what they are told.

It is said (and true) that a real "humane society" is a caring community, and not a mortar and brick facility. When a community of animal care providers can no longer tolerate misinformation, misrepresentation and inertia, they pool their energy to take the lead to end the senseless destruction of healthy animals with honesty, facts and a cooperative plan.

We can only be prayerful that in time and with shared vision that this said animal service agency will hold itself accountable to the performance standard of affirming life and embracing honesty and respect that will result in stewardship to be in-line with the rest of the animal service organizations of the community - contributing to a momentum that will be life saving, rather than life-taking.

Great questions. Thanks for asking them.

No man should talk one way with his lips and think another way in his heart. Judaism Talmud Baba Metsia