Categories: Cat HealthInfection

Is it correct to euthanize shelter cats exposed to panleuk?

Disinfecting animal shelter on panleuk outbreak

WATAUGA COUNTY, N.C. — A deadly cat, feline panleukopenia (panleuk – feline distemper) virus has forced a North Carolina shelter to make a life and death decision concerning the cats in their care.

The Watauga Humane Society is euthanizing dozens of cats to keep the virus from spreading. Up to 80 are expected to be killed. This will be followed by a two week quarantine where the shelter won’t take in more cats. The facility will also be given a good bleach cleaning to prevent infection when they reopen.

The video explains the viewpoint as to why the Watuga Humane Society mass kill is necessary…(Update: video no longer available – v.sorry)

Channel 9 New was allowed to see some of the cats on Wednesday. The cats aren’t showing symptoms at this time, which would include vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Still, those who made the decision to euthanize the cats don’t want to risk a more serious outbreak. Dr. Greg Lowe, veterinarian for the Society, told Channel 9

“You have to think about the health of all the other animals that may go through here, and you cannot risk that large population. You can’t risk it.”

Greg says that eight out of every ten cats who get panleuk will die from it.

Shelter executive director Laurie Vierheller reported that all of the recent adopters have been contacted and told what to watch for. The Society will assist those who took home a new cat, should symptoms develop. Approximately 40 cats that recently left the shelter for new homes had been vaccinated, but they’re concerned with the period it takes the vaccinations to kick in.

There have been eight to 10 deaths confirmed due to panleuk at this one shelter. Volunteers have stepped in and taken the cats who weren’t exposed, and are monitoring those cats for signs of panleuk.

Recently, Anderson County P.A.W.S., the same shelter who provided a temporary home for the cats rescued from the Belton home of Julianne Westberry, had a possible outbreak. They went into a two week shutdown to contain their situation. From what I’ve heard, no mass murder was planned for their cat population.

The shelter in Greenville, South Carolina where most of our cats originated, has had several outbreaks over the years. You all may remember the outbreak in July/August of 2011 when many, many cats rescued and fostered died. The shelter there also used the euthanasia approach I know of on at least two occasions. We were criticized back then for keeping the kittens we had rescued in quarantine in a room together, but they were all together in the same vehicle coming home.

Nothing was said about the panleuk until the following day when our vet diagnosed the mother of one of the litters, along with all of her kittens. If caught early, it can be successfully treated with Tamiflu, as well as other medications to control the symptoms. That 24-hour window could have been spent being proactive instead of wondering what was happening to cause such a swift decline. Panleuk can hit fast and it always hits hard.

Marley, our mother cat, survived. I had heard the death rate was thirty percent among cats and ninety percent among young kittens. Only one kitten survived, and that was our black kitten, Midnight.

I applaud the shelters who speak up and warn the public when they have an outbreak. They have a responsibility to the public to tell of any feline and canine infectious diseases in the community. After all, those who adopted may take their sick animal into a vet for treatment, and everyone who plans to visit a vet for routine care needs to know when panleuk, or parvo (dogs), in spreading through the community.

Do the readers here think it necessary to euthanize the shelter cats to prevent an outbreak from wiping out their cat population? Or would a simple quarantine and cleaning be the best approach? Is it better for a shelter’s “image” to work with the public, or to orchestrate a cover-up? Your comments are welcome.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • I hate euthanizing any cat in any circumstances whether the cat is a hazard for myself either either. :(

    Don't have any other idea and I am totally against it. 100% and if I had a shelter, I should have kicked everyone off and stay alone with cats whether on my own life's cost, no compromise on what so ever happens NEXT!!! to me or all my cats :(

  • Does it make much of a difference as most of the "SHELTER CATS" are normally euthanized in U.S.A.A very lucky few cats get adopted in "Cat Euthanasia shelters" and survive.Tragic that a disease like "Panleuk" is a total death sentence for all the cats in this shelter.

    • Point made. Panleuk is a disaster. Isn't this what can happen at shelters at any time because cats are forced together in numbers? When you add this particular issue to the high levels of euthanasia anyway at shelters generally the shelter system starts too look less successful and fragile.

  • Surely this highlights a weakness in the shelter system. If the shelter system (putting many cats in one place) was substituted by the UK Cats Protection system (volunteer foster homes where only one or two cats were looked after per home) there would be no epidemic catastrophes.

      • What's really strange is one county over in Abbeville the shelter is run under city services which means the police department is involved. I ran across that situation in Virginia doing a dog article.

        • The Cabarrus Animal Control Shelter is run by the sheriffs department in Concord NC, The Cabarrus Humane Society has a office there so many residents think its NO KILL , Very confusing .

          • Pickens County, SC is the same as Greenwood. But at least on their FB page they say HS and Animal Shelter. Their problem is dogs and cats being stuck there a year or more.

    • Sorry Elisa. It is changed. It was a mistake. When I publish an article there are about 10 different things to do and sometimes I forget one. Apologies.

    • My, oh my, Dee.

      Methinks it just may be an attempt to legitimize their nasty little habit of snuffing Fluffies.

      Next time they make the news for euthanizing kitties, they will be able to say "we don't need a repeat of what happened late last October!" and no one will question them.

      On the other hand... this little "final solution" may have a few (very few, but a few I can understand) "merits".

      I tend to agree with Leah: quarantine, clean and don't take in or release any animals for the duration.

      The ultimate solution is to figure out how to make money off of the truly sick cats, and tug at the heartstrings of the public to adopt the survivors.

      Capitalism "rules". The Brits and the 'mericans will 'make book' on anything: maybe have a Las Vegas or London bookie start setting odds on survivors, and sending the profits from the gambling to the "shelter".

      Geebus, "shelter" takes on an entire new hue with these folks, doesn't it?

      I don't want to invoke the Devil's own name, but I wonder how long it will take "Mr. T" to start spewing a "See! See" I told you so!!!" all over this thread. (boy, did I ever initially mis-read that fellow: sorry for he encouragement I gave him, dear folks)

      Prayers for the kitties, Bruce.

      • There needs to be clarification between a rescue shelter, the county shelter, and the Humane Society shelter in that area of NC.

        Foremost, this article refers to the Humane Society which claims to be no-kill and are, indeed, killing the infected cats. They don't even have the forethought to dump them in the county shelter, like most do, so the "deed" isn't on them and they can maintain their no-kill status. Nor, do they have any interest in pursuing fosterers. They will not quarantine or treat. I can almost guarantee.

        Only private not-for-profit rescue groups will do what is right by these kitties. They will be treated, tested, and retested. They will be fostered when well. I am 90% certain.

  • Close the shelter to the public, barrier nursing and what they are already doing plus of course quarantine. I don't think it was entirely logical to euthanise all the cats yet I'm not working there so I don't have the full picture; there may be other extenuating circumstances.

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