The staff, management and volunteers at the Payson Humane Society had to make a most painful decision this week to put to sleep more than 100 cats and kittens. It was discovered that many of the cats were infected with a highly contagious strain of feline herpes.
Initial testing showed that more than half the cats were infected and all were exposed to the disease.
It is hard for us to imagine the pain the humane society workers suffered as they undertook the tearful task of eliminating the entire population of cats at the shelter in order to contain the spread of the disease. These are people who love animals and work diligently to find homes for them.
But after considering all the options and consulting with veterinarians, the board and staff made the only responsible decision they could.
Feline herpes spreads quickly and can even be passed on by cats who have been exposed but exhibit no symptoms. This is one reason the virus is so hard to identify and contain.
Had the humane society decided to destroy only the sick animals, there would have been a high likelihood that adopted cats would spread the disease into the community.
In addition to the loss of the cats, the shelter has spent the week tearing out all carpeting, toys, bedding and play structures used by the cats. The entire feline area is being disinfected and sterilized to protect the cats that can be accepted after a 10- to 14-day quarantine.
That quarantine period will be difficult for the community, which sometimes delivers up to 25 cats per day to the facility.
The humane society needs our continued support during this tough time. Please have your pets spayed or neutered, vaccinated and contained in a safe place.
The humane society staff is taking every step possible to avoid future outbreaks. There is a new vaccine they will be receiving soon which can reduce the risk of catching the herpes virus, but it cannot treat a cat that’s already been exposed.
If you’ve adopted a cat from the shelter in the past seven weeks, however, do not panic. Feline herpes situations within private homes can be vastly different, and much less critical, than in animal shelters. Contact your veterinarian to see what course of action, if any, you should take.