Shelter Director Fired Because She Euthanised 14 Cats Exposed to Ringworm

Kerrin Conklin was the Executive Director for the Central New York SPCA. She was fired summarily (without notice for what must have been gross misconduct) after five months in the job because she decided to authorise the euthanasia of 14 cats that had been exposed to ringworm. Apparently one cat had contracted ringworm. Then, it is said, the veterinarian introduced the infected cat to other cats. As a result Conklin decided to euthanise the cats exposed to this highly contagious but non-fatal fungal infection.

In addition, it is also alleged that although the veterinarian euthanised the first cat, the others were euthanised by unlicensed staff. I believe this happened because the veterinarian was called away and the Executive Director decided to press on with unlicensed staff. This apparently puts the veterinarian’s license at risk. She is also accused of being involved in the unlicensed use of narcotics.

Ringworm although contagious as mentioned and a rather unpleasant disease is certainly not fatal. It is simply an irritating infection which as we know infects people as well. In fact workers at the shelter would also be exposed to ringworm and they could have caught it as well. Was that factored in by Cocklin?

The big question is whether the Executive Director was justified in euthanising 14 cats (healthy cats it seems). There are other ways of dealing with this sort of contagious disease whilst preserving life.

She was not allowed to attend the meeting at which she was fired. Or to put it slightly differently; she was not asked to attend the meeting. As it happens she was sitting in her car outside the office where the meeting took place. She was telephoned and told that she was fired immediately. She is challenging the decision.

There are two questions. Firstly, was her decision correct or acceptable and the second is: was her sacking justified?

For me, she made the wrong decision because I would have done all I could to save the lives of those cats and at the same time eradicate the ringworm. It is possible. These sorts of outbreaks are not that uncommon in shelters. They are dealt with without killing cats.

As for her sacking I’m not sure that this was a good decision either. She made a mistake. That mistake went against the shelter’s mission and ethos and cats lost their lives which is traumatic. But she made a genuine decision as best she could and it appears she made it honestly and in good faith and therefore I don’t think she should have been sacked summarily. She could have been given a final written warning instead and then retrained and allowed to keep her job. There is a petition to have her reinstated.

P.S. The sort of behaviour that should result in instant dismissal is embezzlement, theft, persistent lying and other such dishonest behaviours and/or violence. If a person makes a genuine mistake albeit a dramatically bad one then the punishment should fall just short of being fired in my opinion although of course it does depend on each individual case. In this case it is borderline. I might be minded to fire the woman as suggested in comments.

P.P.S. David made an excellent comment about the cost of dealing with ringworm. I feel it deserves to be published in the main article. You can read it below.

Ringworm can be an expensive treatment in cats and can range from $200.00 to $500.00 depending on the cost of living and severity of your Cat’s ringworm. On average, the national cost of treating ringworm in cats is $250.00. 14 x $250 is $3,500. They probably would have fired her for blowing the budget, too. Think about how many cats that $3500 will help and she was curbing the outbreak. There are always two sides to a story. If you are concerned about abandoned pets living, though. Never take them to a PETA shelter as they have the highest kill rates.

Source: various online including the petition.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

22 thoughts on “Shelter Director Fired Because She Euthanised 14 Cats Exposed to Ringworm”

  1. This has to be the stupidest thing I have ever read! For $1.00 you can cure ringworm, that’s what a bottle of apple cider vinegar costs! 3 baths a week apart kills the ringworm. I have used it several times on cats dumped on my road. I warm it then sponge it on the cat or dog till they are soaked to the skin then pat down and let them air dry, do not rinse. I even got one on my face from a kitten and the expensive meds the doc gave me did nothing! I used it on myself and no more ring worm. It turned black, died and disappeared.
    Apple Cider Vinegar Ringworm Treatment

    1. P.s. the one kitten that had ringworm had it really bad and it took 4 baths a week apart to kill the worm. I did not know she should be quarantined from the other cats and allowed her to be with the others. No other cat got it, only me because when I picked her up I hugged her to my face. She was maybe 8 weeks old and needed a hug, LOL. She was pitiful, half her hair was gone, that was 8 years ago and today she’s a senior. I keep telling people (shelters) about Apple Cider Vinegar but no one is listening. They would rather kill pets thinking they need expensive treatments.

  2. The only reason ringworm becomes a problem and perhaps ” difficult” to
    eliminate from shelters, Michael, is because of poor intake protocols (no quarantine/isolation until properly checked out) and because of poor hygiene and husbandry in the shelter. They could have isolated the cats that they themselves es (the veterinarian, no less) exposed to one cat. and in fact none may have developed ringworm, therefore none may have required medication. While private veterinarians might want to culture to definitively diagnose, signs of ringworm are usually fairly obvious and cultures wouldn’t be necessary for every cat in an exposed group. Each could be treated as a precaution if necessary, since cultures take a while to grow anyway. Over the counter fungal creams work well and are inexpensive, as are bleach baths. Even if fulvicin or itraconozole etc. are needed they wouldn’t be $800 or even anywhere near $250 for just one cat. Our compounding pharmacist made the meds up for us at a cost of under $25 per cat for four weeks’ worth.

  3. Miss Conklin made a series of mistakes. As the Executive Director of an organization that was created and is maintained to protect animals she failed in fulfilling her primary duty. The cats could have been spared by following a readily available and generally accepted protocol. Instead she had them killed. She involved untrained staff in a procedure they were not trained to do. She is not authorized to do this. Because of her position of authority these staff may have felt compelled to follow her orders. They also have grounds to complain against her: abuse of authority. Because they were untrained, staff may have performed the kill-procedure improperly, thereby rendering both themselves and Miss Conklin open to a charge of animal cruelty. Then there is the improper and probably illegal use of narcotics. This matter can also attract disciplinary measures or charges against Miss Conklin, untrained staff and the vet. Although it may seem like firing is an extreme measure, this has to be weighed against the impact of a series of poor decisions on the employer, fellow staff and most of all on the cats who were deprived of their lives. My personal belief is that living beings have a right to their lives, and a right to not be deprived of their lives except in the most extreme and clear cases. This was manifestly not the situation here.

    1. I completely agree with you, Conklin exercised poor judgement as used her power as the ED to make an irrevocable decision.

      She used her power to save the already flailing organization $$$. Money that was stolen by her predecessor. exercising her power.

      Maybe the entire board of directors should be held accountable, for their negligence in being so quick to hire Conklin.

      What were the damn qualifications for this position anyway?
      What is her work experience, was she a co-owner of a hospice facility? Wasn’t that partnership dissolved, in the few years that she was there? Hey and what a coincidence, wasn’t there a civil law suit filed against the buyer of the hospice she co-owned? alleging some other sort of problems?

      Where is this BOD’s responsibility and their due diligence to these poor animals. The real crime here is that they are asleep behind the wheel.
      Previous E.D. is a thief and the short lived second a killer.

      What a crime, CNY, SPCA board of directors so that leadership can effectively direct others in the research and resolution of issues.

      Always looking out for the almighty dollar bill yo, GREEDY CREEPS!

  4. Ringworm can be an expensive treatment in cats and can range from $200.00 to $500.00 depending on the cost of living and severity of your Cat’s ringworm. On average, the national cost of treating ringworm in cats is $250.00. 14 x $250 is $3,500. They probably would have fired her for blowing the budget, too. Think about how many cats that $3500 will help and she was curbing the outbreak. There are always two sides to a story. If you are concerned about abandoned pets living, though. Never take them to a PETA shelter as they have the highest kill rates.

    Read more at:

    1. Thanks a lot David for your excellent comment. It’s such a good comment I’m going to cut and pasted it into the article!

  5. Why was the first go to solution euthanasia? At least, she should have worked with rescue groups to get them out before making the decision to kill them all. Ringworm is not a fatal disease and to just kill animals that were only exposed without symptoms is not only wrong, it’s bizarre. And then to have them killed by staff that is not licensed, is inexcusable. As manager she has a sacred trust to care and work for the betterment of the animals. There needs to be both heart and intelligence in managing a shelter. A good manager would find ways to deal with health issues and would explore every avenue to save their lives. These are living creatures, not disposable items to be thrown away. Imagine killing your cat if you found out it had a treatable, fungal infection? Of course you wouldn’t. What she did was wrong and she has proven herself to be unworthy of our trust.

  6. Where are her professional judgment skills. I wouldn’t want someone who could euthanize so easily taking care of my pets.

    1. Yes, I had the same thoughts. It may be that she is unsuited to the role but I’ve been generous in my assessment and suggested that she could be trained provided she has other skills which make her a good manager.

  7. Frances A Danna

    I think euthanization is always unnecessary and should only be done as a very last resort for humane reasons. Murdering 14 cats because they were exposed to ringworm? Bigtime mistake here. I would not like to see this person reinstated. Always choose life over death. In my mind this is totally unacceptable.

    1. A lot of people would agree with you, Frances. I have been quite generous in my assessment. I suspect that the majority of readers of this article would agree with you.

    1. It was certainly a very bad decision by the director. You could argue that she is unsuited to the job. However, I have been quite generous in my assessment and I think perhaps she just made a genuine mistake because she felt that ringworm is so contagious that it would cause a massive problem within the shelter. And it does cause problems in shelters because, as mentioned, it is highly contagious. It is also transmitted to people as you know. Therefore both the cats and the staff in the shelter can end up with it. In addition it is very difficult to get rid of.

      1. Just passing through

        While I can understand the line of thinking that this was a massive mistake, I can’t find any excuse to tolerate such a mistake. This person was tasked with catering to the welfare of animals and, instead, she had them killed.

        I know some may say this is like comparing apples and oranges, but the core point is identical. If a physician diagnosed a human with a highly contagious strain of influenza, would any notion of exterminating the patient ever be a consideration? It is my humble opinion that not only is she unsuited for the job, but she has betrayed the very fundamental principle she, in both her occupation and employed organization, is duty-bound to safeguard. I wouldn’t say her “mistake” warrants jail time, but, at the very least, it does warrant removing her from a position of authority in which she has proven herself to be grossly negligent to the utmost extreme. No offense intended, just respectfully disagreeing that such a mistake should have any other outcome than being promptly fired.

        1. I totally get what you are saying and respect it. I could come to the same conclusion myself. Ringworm is a massive problem though in shelters once it takes hold. It could make the cats unadoptable which would lead to euthanasia anyway.

  8. Her decision to euthanize for a fungus was wrong. Her decision to let staff carry out the procedures was not only wrong, it was illegal and unethical. This was piss poor judgement.

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