Hoarding is a problem that exists in every community in Canada. The BC SPCA has been involved in a number of high-profile cruelty investigations over the years seizing or taking in surrendered animals from hoarders. These animals are often found suffering from parasites, emaciated, covered in urine and feces with emotional scars due to neglect.
The BC SPCA started a program in 2018 to prevent hoarding situations by identifying people who are at risk and providing them with support to spay/neuter their animals. The BC SPCA’s animal protection officers identify people who have anywhere from six to 20 animals and offer them free spay/neuter and microchipping in partnership with a local vet.
In 2019, 47 cats were spayed/neutered and microchipped through this program connected to nine cruelty investigation files across B.C.
Most people involved in these potential hoarding cases care deeply for their pets but are afraid of reaching out for help or are unaware that there is help available.
In one case, the person involved was known in the community as being the one who would take in stray and unwanted cats. The situation can quickly get out of control because cats can reproduce starting at four months of age and have a litter every two months.
Cost can become a huge barrier for these individuals. As the number of animals increases they can no longer afford the basics of care, such as food and litter. It can cost thousands of dollars to provide spay/neuter surgeries for multiple cats.
Transportation is another barrier, particularly for people who live in remote areas and would need to take all their cats to the vet for the spay/neuter surgery. In some cases, animal protection officers have stepped in to transport cats to the vet and ensure that the animals arrive for their appointment.
As part of the program, the pet guardian has to sign a form agreeing not to take in any more pets.
The program was made possible through grant funding from the CanFel Foundation and by SPCA donors who support this important work.