October 30, 2003, VANCOUVER – The Humane Society of Canada is asking people not to react with alarm over a new scientific report released today that the SARS virus can be transmitted to cats and ferrets. “We need to show common sense and calm, not panic” according to Al Hickey, HSC Western Regional Director. “While the studies indicate that cats and ferrets can get the SARS virus, the felines studied suffered little and showed no symptoms while some of the ferrets became lethargic and one died,” he says. For more information on the study, please see the Backgrounder below.


So far there is no evidence that SARS can be transmitted from a cat or a ferret to a person. Even if it turns out that some pets can transmit the SARS virus to humans, The Humane Society of Canada stresses that this is no reason for people to get rid of their animal companions; according to HSC Executive Director Michael O’Sullivan whose family shares their home with cats and dogs.

“There are more than 6.43 million cats living in Canadian homes. They are our friends, our companions and a part of our families,” says O’Sullivan. He is also quick to point out that over the last 30 years; he has worked with all kinds of animals here in Canada and all around the world. During that time, he has been bitten, scratched and kicked, but only ever become sick on two occasions.

“Indoor cats are exposed to considerably fewer diseases and viruses than those felines who are allowed outdoors,” says O’Sullivan. “So by keeping your feline companions indoors you will be protecting them and likely reducing your veterinary costs. All pets should always be up-to-date with their vaccinations anyway,” he says.

When the SARS outbreak first hit Canada earlier this year, his organization wrote to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities urging them to close down markets where live animals were being sold for food, because O’Sullivan knew from first hand experience that these markets put people and animals at grave risk. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control eventually tracked the source of SARS to Chinese markets where wild animals were being killed for food. For more information, please go to our website’s SARS information page.

O’Sullivan also wants to see politicians do more to help dogs and cats in our communities: “Governments need to encourage spaying and neutering to reduce pet overpopulation, which in turn will mean fewer homeless animals and less concern over the spread of disease. Low cost spay/neuter clinics, higher licence fees for animals which have not been sterilized are just two ways to improve the lives of animals and people,” he says.

“The important thing to remember,” says O’Sullivan “is that pets are our friends, and we need to protect our four legged friends and each other from diseases which can be prevented. Their safety, means our safety,” he says.

CONTACT: Michael O'Sullivan by toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at www.humanesociety.com via twitter at www.twitter.com/HSCanada and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Humane-Society-of-Canada/211468055538280

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and was the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has been The HSC Western Regional Director for over 12 years. He has 4 children and 6 grandchildren. For his lifetime of achievement dedicated to helping people, animals and the environment, we have bestowed upon him our prestigious Heroes for Animals Award, shared by only a handful of people and organizations.

A father with two children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, Michael O'Sullivan has worked across Canada and in over 110 countries during the last 40 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society of Canada (HSC) works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, rabbits and small animals, livestock, lab animals, wildlife and the environment. We carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, use a multidisciplinary approach, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres, and spread the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.

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