The doors are closed at the Nanaimo and District SPCA as staff deal with an outbreak of ringworm.
The Nanaimo branch joins SPCA shelters in Abbotsford, Kamloops, Prince Rupert and Squamish experiencing quarantines in recent days.
“It really seems like a provincial outbreak,” said Leon Davis, Nanaimo branch manager. “We don’t want to cause a panic but it is contagious and we need to get on top of it.”
Ringworm is a skin condition caused by a fungus and can be transferred to humans through animals.
The ringworm was discovered Aug. 29 in the Nanaimo shelter and the doors were closed the next day.
“It’s been an unbelievable kitten season, we’ve had more than 120 come through the doors and one litter presented to us had ringworm,” said Davis. “No staff has been infected, but our volunteer programs have been cancelled and we’re unable to adopt animals or take animals in.”
Three cats have been confirmed with the disease but staff is taking culture samples from all 80 animals in the shelter.
“The problem is results from cultures take up to two weeks to show anything,” said Davis. “In the meantime, the animals that are confirmed, we’re treating them with an oral anti-fungal solution and we’re cleaning all the animals with a preventative sulphur/lime spray solution every four days.
“We’re going through four litres every time we clean because the animals have to be soaked to the skin and all this is very expensive.”
No dogs have been infected but they must remain in the shelter’s yard, limiting the amount of exercise available to them.
Shelter staff are wearing personal protective equipment including gowns, respirator masks and coverings for head, hands, feet and eyes and there is no end in sight.
“It’s all going to depend on the tests from our initial cultures, but I would say it’s going to be a least a month before we are fully open,” said Davis. “Every month we don’t adopt animals, it costs us about $9,000.”
The public can’t enter the yard, but donations can be dropped off outside the gate.
“We really need towels because we’re pretty much giving them fresh beds every days and throwing away the bedding,” said Davis.
James Lawson, SPCA chief animal health officer, said in press release that cases of ringworm are inevitable.
“It’s especially challenging for shelters at this time of year because we receive so many abandoned and surrendered kittens who are particularly susceptible to ringworm,” he said. “We’ll reopen as quickly as possible, but it is important that we take every precaution to ensure other animals are not exposed.”
Davis said while ringworm is difficult and costly to contain, euthanasia is not an option.
“We just want to get them all healthy again,” he said.
The shelter’s closure does not affect the SPCA’s Paws for a Cause walk Sunday (Sept. 9) at 11 45 a.m. at Maffeo Sutton Park.