The Children's Aid Society of Hamilton has removed a three-year-old boy living in "squalor" from a home in the city's east end after neighbours alerted police to a foul smell coming from the residence.
CAS executive director Dominic Verticchio confirmed to CBC Hamilton that the boy was taken last Wednesday from the home near Parkdale Avenue North and Melvin Avenue where the toddler was living with his mother and grandmother.
"Certainly it was not fit for human residency," Verticchio said, adding that there was garbage and animals contributing to the foul smell reported to police.
The boy had "a few" flea bites, Verticchio said, and the SPCA and Hamilton police were also involved in the "ongoing" investigation.
He said the boy was a "typical three-year-old" and "he's in our care and doing well." Because of the involvement of CAS, the toddler cannot be identified, and some details that might identify him cannot be published.
'It was a real mess'
Barbara, a neighbour on the street where the home now sits deserted, said the mother, who she estimates is in her mid-20s, moved into the residence a few years ago when she was pregnant with the boy.
"I didn't even know if they were living over there anymore," she said.
Barbara met the grandmother once and "she seemed pleasant," but the house was an eyesore to neighbours on the quiet street as the grass reached knee height on more than a few occasions.
"There was garbage on the front porch - it was a real mess," Barbara said.
The home is now deserted, grass trimmed and garbage cleared away. The windows are also cracked opened allowing the odour to be detected from the sidewalk.
'Another officer wearing one of those hazmat suit walked out the front door and pulled his mask away and puked on the lawn' - Anne, neighbour
Anne has lived on the street for 50 years and said police, the SPCA and children aid were lined up down the block last week when the boy was taken away.
She listened through a window as one officer sat the mother down on a dirty lawn chair out back of the house where a mound of garbage bags half sat buried in the grass.
"I heard the officer saying....that's intolerable no one is ever going back in that house again," Anne said. "Another officer wearing one of those hazmat suit walked out the front door at one point and pulled his mask away and puked on the lawn."
Another officer entered the house without a mask and left 20 seconds later "shaking his head and wiping his eyes" in disgust, she said.
Hamilton police said the CAS is in charge of the case and any charges resulting from their investigation will be relayed to police.
Both woman described how they were "shocked" to learn the number of animals living in the house after as at least five dogs and as many cats were removed by the SPCA
"The officers were walking outside and wiping their feet across the grass," Anne said, speculating that the family let the animals defecate in the house because she'd only ever seen one dog outside.
The SPCA could not be reached for comment.
Ward 1 Councillor and City Housing Hamilton President Brian McHattie confirmed the home is an affordable housing residence and voiced his concern.
"I am very concerned to learn of this circumstance, it sounds like a horrific situation. My immediate concern is for the health and well-being of the three year old boy," McHattie said. "You can be certain that myself and the Board will be following up on this immediately with CHH staff."
Anne said prior to the family moving in the house was occupied by alleged drug dealers.
"It took them five months to repair it after they left and now who knows how long this is going to take. They'll have to take it back to the studs to get rid of the smell - that's a lot of money," she said