Sick Cats

After two confirmed cases of a rare, often fatal virus, the Athens-Clarke County Animal Shelter was forced to quarantine all feline residents and turn away any new shelter occupants for about two weeks.

In response to the outbreak, the shelter euthanized “between 25 and 30” cats, according to ACC Animal Control Supervisor Michelle Carrigg.

Cats were accepted again by the shelter on July 20, and feline residents are once again available for adoption. 

Patient zero

The shelter, located at 125 Buddy Christian Way, was unable to take in cats in response to two confirmed cases of feline panleukopenia, according to an official statement made by the animal shelter on July 10.

The shelter is government-funded and works with the county’s Animal Control to provide numerous services, including enforcing Animal Control ordinances and facilitating the “reclaiming of lost and surrendered animals,” according to the shelter’s website.

According to the July 10 statement, “FP is a highly contagious virus among unvaccinated cats that is common in the wild and has a high mortality rate, especially among kittens.”

During the two-week quarantine, only shelter staff had access to the cat area of the shelter and the rooms underwent deep cleaning, Carrigg said. 

The shelter has been under self-imposed quarantine as a precaution before, although Carrigg could not remember the virus that lead to the previous quarantine.

Carrigg confirmed on July 22 that after implementing the cat quarantine, there were only two cases of cats diagnosed with FP. 

The first confirmed case of FP was found after Shelter Director of the Athens-Area Humane Society, Jed Kaylor, pulled a sick cat from the ACC shelter and took the cat to a vet following concerning symptoms. 

“Her body temp was low, she hadn’t been eating and you could tell she had lost some weight,” Kaylor said. 

After the cat experienced a brief recovery followed by more symptoms, a vet working with the Humane Society decided to test the cat for FP.  The test came back positive. The Humane Society then relayed the information to ACC Animal Shelter. 

Later that week, the ACC Animal Shelter diagnosed another cat and put in place the complete cat quarantine. 

Treating the virus

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, FP “infects and kills cells that are rapidly growing and dividing, such as those in bone marrow, intestines and the developing fetus.”

“It’s really bad when it happens. Some shelters choose to euthanize all cats, whether infected or not, and do a deep cleaning afterwards,” said Laura Mosoriak, a veterinarian and feline expert at Kingstowne Cat Clinic in Alexandria, Virginia.

The virus can also be particularly dangerous in highly populated areas such as kennels, pet shops and animal shelters.

“A foster program definitely would have helped to get more of the animals out,” Kaylor said regarding the situation at the ACC Animal Shelter. “We would use foster homes or quarantine the room to monitor everybody in this situation.” 

Brandy Burgess, director of Infection Control at the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital, said it’s important to keep newly arrived animals at shelters separate from animals already there, in order to better monitor the disease and allow time for vaccinations. 

“With shelters, you never know the prior vaccination history,” Burgess said. 

Local organization Cat Zip Alliance is dedicated to managing and reducing the number of community cats on UGA’s campus. To do so, it applies trap, neuter and release methods through its Campus Cats program.

“It’s always a tragedy when animals are euthanized at the shelter, even more so because it’s 100 percent preventable if pet owners would simply spay or neuter their animals, and if everyone caring for community cats would take the next step to have them fixed and vaccinated,” Kelly Bettinger, founder of Cat Zip Alliance, said.

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(21) comments

Facts Matter

For an explanation of the nonoutbreak and the actual number of cats killed for nonexposure, read https://flagpole.com/news/news-features/2019/08/21/cat-lovers-say-mass-euthanizations-at-acc-shelter-were-unnecessary.

Lola

panleukopenia is only closely related to mink enteritis virus and type 2 parvo in a dog not the same and there is no cure. All I could think they could have really tried to do since I doubt the county has a paid Vet on call working there was try to treat the symptoms and hope it didnt spread while seeking assistance. Meanwhile... the virus is fast spreading and can spread by contact, feces, secretions, or contaminated fomites (i.e. toys, water bowls, inanimate objects). Heck even if the animal had fleas it is possible it could spread that way. I want to know where is everyone getting their information? Does everyone that posted here work there? Seem like you guys must be train Vets cause you seem to now exactly what should have happen. Easy to Monday night quarterback a problem after you already seen the out come. So how would everyone react, if animal control waited and next thing you know something happen and the virus spread to those same 20+ cats? Where were these 18 people that post on here lining up to adopt one of these cats or help foster one before this other sick cat got there? I know I'm guilty of that one myself. What it comes down to, it happen and its over with, did she make the right call? I don't know and I'm not going to pretend that I know all the answers. I wouldn't want to have had to make that call, but I'm placing my money on that it was made in the best interest of the shelter. Do I like that all these animals were put down? No, but do I think Animal control needs to burn to the ground for it? Again no, I want to look on the bright side and think that the virus has been taken care of and it has saved the lives of future cats that will come in. I can't claim to be some big animal lover as I don't volunteer like I'm guessing a lot of ya'll do. But I cherish the ones I own, so I can understand being upset if something happen to them.

Fingthefakes

If the virus spread to the 20+ cats, then there would have been justification for euthanasia. The cat shelter was already under quarantine so why not wait the 24 hours it takes to get the lab results back before clearing out the shelter? It’s not fair to ask “where were those 18 people” because the fantastic volunteers and programs put in place would have come up with a solution, but no one except for staff was even allowed into the cat shelter for the 2 weeks this happened. The rest of us were kept in the dark. Luckily most of the staff is honest about what happened and you can go in and ask for yourself. Why try to hide the truth from the public and volunteers? Everyone is so upset not only because of the sad situation, but we are all worried decisions like this will be made in the future when there are better ways to handle it. This isn’t the first time ACCAC has had an incident like this, but we all want to do our best to make it the last and everyone needs to be onboard to do that. If the superintendent wants to open up about what actually happened, admit the mistake, and find a solution then good. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Smalls

@LawJSmith you are completely right. I won't mention her by name, but I around the person that owns AthensPets. She acts all nice in public but will spread hate on you if you dont bend to her will. I too help out from time to time at the shelter and know most of the workers including the manager, ACC could't have picked a better person. She is an outstanding person, kind and very passionate about what she does at Animal Control.

LawJSmith

I see the Hand of AthensPets at work here trying to smear the name of one person. None of you know anything about what happen or fully understand. You hide behind your made up screen name trying to be some white knight keyboard warrior. The only people who truly know what happen are those who work there and from reading a lot of these comments, I see some that stand out as being fed false information from a narcissist who is upset that the shelter wont do what SHE wants so she tries very hard to turn people against the shelter. If the manager and employees felt these cats were a danger, then i believe in them that they made the best call the prevent and further outbreak from happening. The current manager that you guys seem to want to bash, has a 15+ years as an officer and has a degree in wildlife biology. I have volunteer up there when I'm not at my law office and I have seen just how much they do really care.

Fingthefakes

Don’t try to distract from the entire point of the situation. The call was made by one person, Michelle, without any consultation from outside sources and it was a terrible mistake on her part. That does not excuse the fact that she tried to brush it under the rug, avoided telling the truth to the public, and withheld public information. Seeing as this is obviously someone closely connected to Michelle, don’t try to throw her f ups onto another person or organization. And hiding behind a screen name is exactly what you’re doing. Weird that 2 “different” users posted at 4 in the morning.

callie38

This article is a joke. "County animal shelter FORCED to euthanize ‘between 25 and 30’ cats following outbreak". They weren't forced to kill those cats. Management clearly made a rash decision to kill everyone even though that wasn't necessary. Panleukopenia is commonly referred to as parvo for cats, and this shelter would NEVER kill 30 puppies/dogs because of a possibility of parvo. It's clear to me that management thought no one would find out or care that 30 cats & kittens were killed. They were WRONG. This is insane to me especially in an animal loving, progressive community like Athens. Management needs to be replaced.

Rikkidianto

This is all wildly inaccurate. Panluek is NOT extremely rare or rare at all. We see it all the time in the shelters. However, what we don’t see all the time are shelters who euthanize whole rooms due to an outbreak. That practice is very old school and not widespread anymore. Atlanta Humane just had a massive parvo outbreak and they managed to quarantine and get past it without euthanasia. Were any vets consulted prior to this hasty decision? Also, are animals not getting vaccinated immediately upon entry? That should be done within a matter of hours and basic practice during intake. I think Red & Black needs to further investigate this.

concernedatenscitizen

Today, the Red & Black published an article about the recent Athens-Clarke County Animal Control quarantine. This article failed at telling the real story about what had transpired at the shelter and merely reported information and claims made by the shelter administrator. The shelter was closed for two weeks after the county sent out a press release on July 10, stating that there were two confirmed cases of Panleukopenia. This is, however, far from accurate as the recent necropsy (confirmation) results came back as negative for Panleukopenia. (This has not been reported by any news entity thus far. The shelter administrator as well as the county government were aware of the findings when recently interviewed by the R&B. The shelter administrator had tested one of the "confirmed cases" by using an off-label test used for testing dogs with Parvo. This test is not at all advised for confirming a diagnosis and has a high false positive rate. The other alleged case was a recent rescued (Humane Society) kitten that had been given a similar, preliminary test and had died. A necropsy wasn't done on that kitten to confirm the diagnosis. Reportedly, these kittens had just been vaccinated and I believe research indicates that antibodies may produce a false positive on this type of non-recommended off-label test. A hasty and immediate decision was made by the shelter administrator, Michelle Carrigg, to kill 25-30 healthy cats and kittens rather than waiting for an actual confirmation of Panleuk (necropsy results). The situation is even more problematic because it is unlikely SOPs or protocols were followed or that a medical professional was consulted before killing nearly an entire shelter of cats and kittens. This is just one tragic example of the mismanagement going on at the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. Sadly, the shelter was closed down a year ago by the GDA for similar issues. Another administrator was at the helm at that time and was later moved into another government position as a result of that debacle. Now, unfortunately , we are dealing with a common mishap with government entities--- they just promote the next underling with seniority rather than seeking out a qualified candidate who can do the job.

Technoblake

I am deeply disappointed in the shallow depth of reporting on this issue, and the lack of truthfulness and accountability of Animal Control management should be exposed. The test that Animal Control employed on site was known to be entirely unreliable. When cats are accepted on intake, they are supposed to be given a vaccine to prevent this disease. That vaccine will often produce fake positive results on the test used. The shelter did not wait for the official results of the UGA labs before proceeding to kill off 25-30 cats, most of which were presumably already vaccinated against the disease. To make matters worse, the county government released misleading information to the public, asserting that two cats tested positive for panleukopenia. To my knowledge, they have failed to correct this statement after receiving results that indicated that at least one of the results for the tested cats was negative. This misleading information found its way into this article. I am awaiting a published correction. Then in an answer to a question about the quarantine, the shelter asserted, " Rescue groups and volunteers were notified about the virus after it was confirmed so that they would be aware of the situation and could monitor, in particular, unvaccinated cats for symptoms. " This is absolutely untrue. As a fosterer of a kitten that was previously in a cage next to a suspected infected cat, I can tell you that no person from the shelter advised us that our foster kitten may have been exposed to an infected cat. They did not provide us with any protocols to follow to prevent the spread of that disease to our adult cat that was un-vaccinated at the time due to a chronic respiratory disease. When pressed about this lack of action on their part, they continued to lie to us, telling us that our foster kitten was likely not exposed to the infected cat. When corrected via an e-mail exchange, our request for an explanation for the discrepancy between their statements and reality have gone unanswered. Now the management at Animal Control continues to misinform the public, using the Red and the Black as a broadcasting service, telling a story that omits how their actions are unethical, misguided, and incompetent. This avoidance of responsibility and accountability must stop. The Red and the Black needs to correct this error and tell the whole story, and the management of Animal Control need to admit their mistakes, be accountable, and ensure that this type of disaster never is allowed to happen again.

Facts Matter

Are you kidding me Red & Black? You blew this story. There were never two confirmed cases of panleukopenia and by the time the press release was put out there was a negative report on one of them, but the shelter superintendent decided to kill 30 healthy cats and put out a press release claiming an outbreak. And you fell for it. Did you ask for copies of the tests that show there were confirmed cases? Did you ask any shelter medicine professionals (not find a quote from a random rescuer about what some shelters "choose" to do) whether killing 30 cats for the possibility of a single positive makes any sense? Did you even try to do research and verify anything or just parrot what you read on the county facebook page? Can you even imagine how horrible it was for staff to be ordered to kill 30 healthy cats and kittens for no reason, and then to read this cover up of it?

Jacobdh

Whats the point of a quarantine if you're going to kill the cats anyway?

Leelee.johnson

Why make the situation seem like a sad story when the truth is that those cats were euthanized based on a rash decision? Tell the entire story, accept your mistakes, and find a way to fix it. The shelter claims it's being transparent but the Athens community hasn't seen that honesty come from any of the higher ups.

Sierrahudson99

This animal shelter is under terrible management. The main lady in charge has been lying. These cats did not deserve the ending they faced. They ran preliminary highly inaccurate tests which came back with a false positive for the disease. Then without further testing they were euthanized. Cats free from disease, readily adoptable. Yes, perhaps it is better to err on the side of caution but this is inexcusable. The testing should have been done. This shelter needs new management and to not force young college age girls to do things they know are morally wrong. Such a tragedy. Just want people to know the truth.

Dawgs4ATH

The boss made them euthanize 30 cats for no reason and is lying about it to the public. She said the cats had panleukopenia but the UGA lab said it came back negative. Absolutely careless and reckless!

justakev

I'm very upset with how the situation was handled and that the shelter needs new management.

maryanna98

30 cats were killed???? With no quarantining or double checking results? How anyone who claims to care about animals let this happen is BEYOND me! Because as it turns out those cats were not sick at all! This is a travesty and I can’t believe the story that’s being spread instead of the facts. This was completely mishandled and the shelter should have some serious work to do to ensure whoever let this happen is reprimanded and this never happens again.

JohnSmith

Clearly the author of this article was misinformed because this situation is a scandal trying to be covered up. As someone who works closely with the Athens Animal Shelter I can personally guarantee that those kitten and cats had no reason to be put down. The quarantine process should have been a good two weeks longer and they should have done better tests to ENSURE these cats needed to be put down. This article sounds highly positive for such a sickening situation, and it breaks my heart to know that people are being misinformed of the situation.

May

I feel that the facts in this article are not entirely truthful. Word gets around quickly especially in an active and caring community, and from what I have heard from several volunteers and members of the animal control, the cats could have been held in quarantine or sent to lab testing for the disease before all being euthanized. The cats that were put down from the sound of this were all healthy and waiting to find new homes and were unfairly never given that opportunity. The end of the article states less euthanizations can occur if the community were to spay and neuter their cats, but I feel like 20-30 euthenizations could have been prevented if the shelter took further precautionary measures to ensure the cats that were put down were actually sick.

AnonymousAthens

As a volunteer, I am shocked to see that Carrigg forgot to mention the UGA diagnostic lab came back negative for Panleukopenia. None of those cats should have died and if the shelter had waited out the quarantine or had waited the 24 hours it takes to get the negative results back then 25-30 cats and kittens would have had the chance to be adopted. It seems like the shelter is covering up an impulsive decision made by the management.

May

I totally agree with your comment. The fact that management was so hasty to rid the shelter of these innocent animals makes me sick to my stomach. The people in charge clearly do not care about the well-being of these cat.

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