Information on Recent Euthanizing of Cats at Animal Shelter

On July 8, 2021, staff at the Currituck County Animal Shelter euthanized a group of cats for medical reasons. Due to a great deal of misinformation circulating on social media, including personal attacks on county employees, Currituck County is providing correct information regarding this situation.

A total of 52 cats, consisting of nine mother cats and their kittens, were sedated and euthanized. Each of the cats was suffering from severe symptoms of Calicivirus, which causes upper respiratory infections and painful ulcers in the mouth. These ulcers cause a cat to reject food and prohibit kittens from nursing. Every cat that was euthanized had visible ulcers.

An outline on how this situation unfolded:

  • In late June, the Animal Shelter sent cats to the Lucky Kitten Cat Rescue in Virginia Beach and the Virginia Beach SPCA for assistance in getting the animals adopted.
  • The Lucky Kitten Cat Rescue contacted Currituck County with information that one of these cats was diagnosed and displaying symptoms of Calicivirus.
  • The Virginia Beach SPCA rejected intake on 4 of the 9 cats sent from Currituck because they displayed symptoms of Calicivirus. Because of that rejection, Currituck staff had to pick up the cats from VBSPCA and bring them back to the Currituck County Animal Shelter.
  • The returned cats, along with others from the larger group that originally came to the shelter with them, were separated from the general cat population as a precaution. This group of cats remained in isolation for medical observation.
  • Cats in this group began to show visible symptoms of Calicivirus.
  • County staff consulted with Roanoke Island Animal Clinic and provided photos of the cats’ symptoms. Dr. Mary Burkart advised county staff in this situation. Dr. Burkart has provided a written letter supporting the decision to euthanize.
  • County staff contacted state inspectors at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, which oversees animal shelters and boarding facilities. Reporting cases of Calicivirus is required by the state office. The state inspectors received guidance from the State Veterinarian’s Office and agreed that euthanizing was the best option.
  • Each cat was sedated to ease their suffering and then individually euthanized by county staff. The euthanized cats were then sent to the county’s crematorium, operated by shelter staff.

In this situation, euthanizing was determined necessary to protect the entire cat population in the shelter. Calicivirus is very contagious and could have potentially spread through the shelter rapidly. The staff followed correct protocols by isolating the group of cats, contacting a veterinarian, and contacting the state inspector’s office prior to euthanizing the animals.

Currituck County utilizes a number of local veterinarian offices for assistance in caring for animals. The county has contracts for services with more than one office, including Moyock Animal Hospital and Roanoke Island Animal Clinic. These contracts are not exclusive and county staff is not required to utilize a specific office. Staff calls upon any of the veterinarians that are available at a time of need to care for the animals.

Euthanizing animals is a last resort at the Currituck County Animal Shelter and is only done for medical or violent behavioral reasons. The emotional toll on staff is very significant.  Currituck County takes great pride in operating a clean, caring, and professional animal shelter. Staff and volunteers spend many hours taking care of pets and preparing them for adoption. Over the past three years, the Animal Shelter has taken in 2,585 animals. Of these, 460 have been euthanized.

The Animal Shelter encourages county residents to spay/neuter pets. The stray and feral cat population in Currituck County is very large and the Animal Shelter frequently has a high number of cats in the facility. Citizens can help prevent situations like this in the future through a proactive spay/neuter approach.

Any citizen in Currituck County is welcome to visit the Animal Shelter and meet with staff, tour the facility, visit with pets, and learn about the process of animal care and adoption that occurs daily. Anyone interested may contact the shelter at 252-453-8682 to make an appointment.