Nova Scotia's SPCA is starting the year off with a financial crunch after a man agreed to give up his 66 cats, all of whom needed medical attention. The shelter is quickly realizing that the felines are coming with a hefty price tag.
There are so many cats, and they require so much treatment, the SPCA has had to put them in isolation — away from the shelter's general intake animals.
"It's unfortunate because all of the cats are pretty infested with lice," said the SPCA's Sandra Flemming.
None of the cats have been spayed or neutered. And that's not all.
"Every single one of them has required pretty extensive dental work, which is also slowing down the process."
Just how expensive is it? Flemming says at this point, they're spending an average of $400 per cat per surgery. If that stands, by the time the work is done, the shelter will have to pay $26,400 on medical procedures alone. That doesn't factor in the cost of food or general care of the animals while they're living at the SPCA.
"It's definitely more than the average cat that comes in. These are cats that are requiring way more surgery time."
The SPCA will receive $160 per adoption, but it still creates a significant gap in paying for the cats.
"This is a big one that hits us that is above the norm, but we'll get through it."
Flemming says the situation is being eased by the support of the owner. They won't identify the man, only to say he lives near Yarmouth, but they said he did the right thing by calling and asking for help. He reached the point where he could no longer afford to feed his animals.
Joanne Landsburg, chief provincial inspector of SPCA., says they won't be pursuing charges.
"Because he's been very compliant with us and working with us. That's the important thing for all animals involved."
The organization has only been able to take 26 of the cats so far.
"We physically don't have the space to bring them all in all at once," said Landsburg, who points out that they still have their regular intake animals to deal with.
"It's a huge impact on the shelter, space wise. And a huge strain on our veterinarians."
Some of the cats were so skinny, they had to sit in their kennels for weeks before they were strong enough for surgery.
So the shelter decided to use a different tactic, dropping off bags of food for the remainder of the cats in the home so they can bulk up before they're seized.
Flemming says despite the burden, there was no way they would consider euthanizing the animals as the Nova Scotia SPCA is a no-kill shelter.
"Dental work and lice is something that we see everyday, just not 66 cases at once. So if we're not going to euthanize that animal in any other circumstance... that's not a cat we're going to euthanize."
'All too often'
So far, about five of the cats from the home have been adopted, but they expect many more to be ready to find new homes in the coming weeks.
While this situation is a strain on the SPCA, it's not unheard of. Last fall they dealt with four different cases of finding 30 cats in homes.
"Hoarding cases such as this happen all too often in Nova Scotia, but it is important for the person to come forward and work with us," said Landsburg.