To the editor:
Recently I stopped at the Harrison County Animal Shelter, looking for a stray cat that had taken up with us that had disappeared (since returned). As I quickly looked through the cages, I heard a loud, desperate cry. I stopped and went over to one cat, and it cried out again, as if telling me to take it home. It had one eye slightly closed but seemed healthy otherwise. We hadn’t come to adopt, so I reluctantly left, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Two days later we went back to adopt it, but the cage was empty. The worker told us that the cat had been put down, as had a litter of happy, playful weeks-old kittens I had seen on my earlier visit. They had been put down because of eye problems; the worker explained any cat needing vet attention is put down so as to keep diseases from spreading (and presumably because of a lack of funds for treatment.)
He also said that they wanted to remove the cat cages and bleach the room to prevent further spread of the disease, but had not gotten permission to do so. I wasn’t clear if it was the County or the Humane Society that was preventing this.
While contagious, cat eye diseases are treatable and are not fatal. They will clear up in time by themselves, though some cats can become carriers and have occasional outbreaks while under stress (such as being in a shelter.)
I am not disparaging the shelter staff and volunteers, who should be commended for their hard work under difficult circumstances to try and care for the county’s stray pet population. But people should be aware that currently, if they take a cat to the shelter, it could become infected and be quickly put down before it has a chance to be adopted.
This situation needs to be corrected. In the short term, whatever objections are preventing the cat room from being cleaned need to be remedied. Perhaps also some infected cats could be adopted or fostered by caring citizens. In the long term, perhaps building a separate quarantine room should be the answer, where sick cats could be kept away from healthy ones while they are infected. If the county can’t come up with all the funds, perhaps donations from citizens could come up with the rest.
I believe the people of Harrison County care about our homeless pets that are currently being put down solely because of a situation that with a little effort could be made right. Let’s hope a solution can be found soon.