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.