The Williams Lake BC SPCA shelter is now looking after 21 out of 52 cats that were found in an abandoned ranch house near Ashcroft.
Kamloops SPCA officers wrapped up their investigation into an alleged cat-hoarding situation and now charges are being forwarded to the Crown.
BC SPCA Const. Kent Kokoska said that on Jan. 4, the SPCA searched the home, and the next day returned and seized 31 cats, all of which had been living in unspeakable conditions.
On Jan. 12 investigators were able to track down their “person of interest” — someone who might have been stealing and hoarding pet cats in the Ashcroft area.
The BC SPCA seized 31 cats from the abandoned house. A few days later, they returned and found eight more, which were also seized. Kokoska said 13 additional cats were surrendered when the person of interest was located.
“There was a layer of pack-rat feces — almost a surreal fecal carpet — on the attic floor,” he said. “The house had been unoccupied for a long period of time and someone thought they could put these cats there.”
Kokoska said the home — he described it as “an outbuilding” — appears to have been used in the past as a ranch bunkhouse. The property owner spotted a large number of cats in and around the structure and called the Ashcroft RCMP, who then called the SPCA.
It looks like all of the seized cats will survive, but many of them are suffering serious medical issues.
The ranch house was unoccupied, and hadn’t been lived in for some time.
Investigators believe the cats had only been in the home for a matter of weeks, and had been left there intentionally.
Kokoska said the person of interest in the case was someone who has admitted to having a compulsion to pick up and steal pet cats.
Found in the home near Ashcroft was a hand-written note asking to leave the cats, and not call the RCMP or SPCA.
According to Kokoska, two people — the original person of interest and another person — will potentially face breach charges.
“In the last week and a half, the totality of cats we’ve recovered we believe were associated with these individuals is 52 cats,” he said.
He said most of the cats were in good condition, but several were treated for ear and eye conditions.
“Unfortunately none of the cats had any kind of identification, such as a tattoo, microchip or ID collar, to link them to potential owners,” he said. “Obviously if these cats are owned we want to reunite them with their families right away, but if not, we need to move forward to adopt them into new loving homes.”
Of the cats in the care of the SPCA, 31 are at the Kamloops shelter while the remaining 21 are in Williams Lake.
Many of them were found to be suffering from eye infections, ear mites and worms — three of the most common ailments found in felines seized from hoarding situations.
The house near Ashcroft — which, Kokoska said, will likely be torn down — is not a typical hoarding scenario.
For one, no one was living there. But, more importantly, it was caught early.
According to Kokoska, the public is the best source of information when it comes to finding and stopping cat hoarders.
“The big thing would be to call the SPCA,” he said.
“We have people call us with concerns where people own a large number of animals and we do inspections.”
As to what to look for, Kokoska said history indicates cats probably aren’t being hoarded inside the house on your street with a meticulous lawn and clean cars in the driveway.
“A point to look for would be if they have a neighbour who has sort of a junky-type yard and they believe that resident has a large number of animals,” he said.
But that’s apparently where the stereotypes end.
“Sometimes there’s this perception of the crazy cat lady,” Kokoska said. “But, quite often, it’s males — probably 50 per cent or more.
“And, there’s common threads that go through [hoarding situations]. As a society, we understand that there’s usually a mental-health issue with hoarders.”
Hoarders can be charged two ways — either criminally or under the provincial Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Charges would usually be failing to provide the necessities of life to an animal or causing unnecessary pain or suffering to an animal — the same as if one was to purposely harm a pet.
“Hoarding is no different,” Kokoska said. “It’s not throwing your cat against the wall, but it’s malicious.”
In the past, according to Kokoska, convicted hoarders have received sentences including jail, restitution and, perhaps most importantly, counselling conditions.
The seized felines will continue to undergo medical testing until they’re cleared for adoption.
Additionally, photos of the cats found at the ranch house have been provided to Cache Creek Veterinary Hospital. Feline owners in the area who think their pet might be among the animals seized are being asked to visit the clinic and take a look at the pictures.
Kokoska said investigators are hoping all the animals end up in loving homes — be it with their original owners or through adoption.
“Unfortunately, my experience with animals has been that the cat is looked at sometimes as ‘the disposable pet,’” Kokoska said.
“We want that to change. Every animal deserves more than that.”
Photos of the cats can be viewed at http://www.spca.bc.ca/news-and-events/news/31-cats-rescued-in-abandoned.html.