Cat owner rushes to OSPCA to rescue pet

JJ is one of the animals slated for execution by the OSPCA in Newmarket.

Construction worker Jason Francis rushed to the Newmarket OSPCA Tuesday morning after he saw his cat on the front page of the Star as one of 350 animals scheduled to be euthanized.

“It was kind of a shock,” Francis said, standing outside the animal shelter desperate for word on the fate of black and white J.J. “We thought for sure someone would have picked him up.”

J.J. was one of 350 animals sentenced to death after a ringworm outbreak at the shelter. The OSPCA disclosed Monday that cats, dogs, rats and other small animals would be euthanized over the next two or three days because of the highly contagious disease.

Francis, who lives in Keswick, got J.J. as a Christmas present for his family from a litter a friend’s cat had. When his youngest daughter turned out to be allergic to cats, J.J. was taken to the OSPCA for adoption.

Now, he said, if J.J. was still alive, he would take the cat to live with his mother in Burlington.

“It was a very difficult decision and it was not made lightly,” OSPCA spokeswoman Alison Cross said outside the shelter Tuesday morning.  “We understand this is not anything anyone wants to happen and that people are upset. We’re upset as well.”

The OSPCA’s spaying and neutering clinic next door to the shelter was still in business Tuesday, with a steady stream of people bringing animals in. The society said walls and doors separated the clinic from the shelter and there was no chance of contamination.

Two security guards patrolled the parking lot entrance, checking for employees’ identification.  “I’m pretty pissed off about this,” said Chris Payne of Friends of Forsaken Animals, a cat rescue group. “This is just so wrong and they’re letting people in [to the spaying clinic]. Can they 100 per cent guarantee that these animals won’t catch anything?”

Of the euthanasia, she said, “They’re not giving the animals a chance. They’re just wiping the slate clean.”  Payne figured her group had brought hundreds of cats to the shelter over the years.  The society consulted with experts before making its decision, said Cross. Employees have been particularly affected by the news. “They’re sad. They’re really sad. These are the animals they care for every day. They worked really hard to get rid of this fungus.”

Newmarket shelter manager Denise Stephenson was fired 10 days ago, the OSPCA confirmed Monday. “It was due to protocols breaking down,” said OSPCA chief executive officer Kate MacDonald. “An outbreak like this is containable when protocols are followed.”

Francis said he regretted bringing J.J. to the shelter. “There was nothing wrong with him before he came here.” With his boss’s permission to take the morning off, Francis vowed to stay until he got J.J. back, if the cat was still alive.

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