B.C. woman loses appeal after 16 cats found locked in barn | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. woman loses appeal after 16 cats found locked in barn

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August 27, 2020 - 6:30 AM

A Lower Mainland woman who kept over a dozen cats in locked in a barn, and rarely visited them, has lost an appeal to have the cats returned after they were seized by the B.C. SPCA.

The B.C. SPCA found that nearly all 16 of the cats were suffering from some form of dental disease, many had missing teeth, others found it too painful to eat, and some had pus or mouth ulcers surrounding their teeth. One vet said they had never seen such a high degree of dental disease in a group of cats before.

According to a B.C. Farm Industry Review Board decision Aug. 17, the B.C. SPCA seized the cats from a barn in Maple Ridge June 17, after receiving a complaint call. The cats' owner – whose name has been redacted in the decision – appealed the seizure and requested all the cats be returned, or if that was not possible, to have four cats returned. The decision says the owner didn't specify which four cats.

According to the decision, the owner rarely visited the 16 cats she kept in a barn on a property in Maple Ridge. Where she lived was never established, but she did not live on the property. The cats appear to be the offspring of a cat she rescued in 2011, which soon became pregnant.

Over time her "kitten family" grew and around 2014, she moved the cats to the 30x40-foot barn.

"She stated that she initially had arranged for persons to feed and look after the cats while she was away, but somehow more cats became pregnant," B.C. Farm Review Board presiding member Dennis Lapierre says in the decision. "She explored adoption ideas but was averse to using the (SPCA) because she had heard it had a high euthanization rate."

Following the initial visit by the SPCA, the cats' owner visited the barn, dropping off food and left, "with what was believed to be dead cats."

The SPCA attended the barn several times and found the barn had no electricity or running water. Officers could smell ammonia outside the barn. After six days of daily visits and with the owner nowhere to be seen, the B.C. SPCA executed a warrant to enter the barn.

"Some were missing teeth. Some were hungry and wanted to eat but found it too painful to eat with food falling out of their mouths. Most of the cats looked young, to the extent that they should have been able to groom themselves, but their coats looked thick and ungroomed. None were able to groom themselves properly. Some showed urine scalds on their feet. All had foul-smelling breath. Some were discharging pus from their mouths. Some had ulcerated membranes surrounding their teeth," the decision says.

The various health conditions of the cats caused them pain, and these conditions usually took months to develop. Two of the cats had to be euthanized because of their dental pain.

The cats' owner testified it was her "self-identified mission to provide protection and sanctuary for her cats" and that "she also felt a compelling need to protect them" describing them as her small family.

"She spent a considerable amount of time explaining her family's history including political issues and other unrelated events that had left her suspicious of authorities," Lapierre says.

She cleaned up the barn and would then foster them and continue to monitor the cats. Her plan was to have them fostered by film and television professionals because she worked in the film industry.

"The Panel cannot accept this plan," reads the decision. "The appellant’s plan to obtain and monitor foster homes for the cats based on her connections in the film and television industry does not present as a reasonably credible option."

The Review Board also said it was likely if cats were returned to the owner she would likely not let go of the cats for rehoming.

"The appellant hasn’t demonstrated that she has the training, or capabilities to achieve this goal," says the decision. "There is no doubt that the appellant is well-intended and has a deep desire to continue caring for her cats. However... the needs of the cats would not be met if they were returned to her."

Ultimately the cats' owner's appeal was dismissed. She was ordered to pay $26,842 to recover the SPCA's costs from the seizure and subsequent care.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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