British Columbia

SPCA investigating after 130 cats found dead in freezers in northern B.C. trailer

The B.C. SPCA is investigating what it says is this year's largest animal seizure nearly a week after discovering 130 dead cats inside three freezers at a trailer in Vanderhoof, about 100 kilometres west of Prince George.

Grim discovery led to 120 live cats, 3 small dogs rescued from ‘filthy and unsafe’ trailer 1 week later

The B.C. SPCA seized 120 cats and three dogs from a trailer in Fort St. James. They are helping the animals recover from physical ailments while in custody. (B.C. SPCA)

The B.C. SPCA is investigating what it says is this year's largest animal seizure nearly a week after discovering 130 dead cats inside three freezers at a trailer in Vanderhoof, about 100 kilometres west of Prince George.

"We've come across deceased animals in the past, obviously, but never to that extent," said senior animal protection officer Eileen Drever who has been with the organization for more than 30 years. 

"I've never seen so many deceased animals in freezers."

Six days later, animal control officers executed another search warrant on a trailer owned by the same person in Fort St. James, about 60 kilometres north of Vanderhoof. There they found 120 cats and three chihuahuas living in "unsafe and filthy" conditions. 

"The entryway and hallway to the bedrooms were covered in layers of feces, and the entire trailer was very hot and filled with an overwhelming ammonia smell due to the buildup of urine," said Drever in a statement. "The feces and urine were so thick that boot covers were pulled off within a couple of steps due to the stickiness."

She said the smell was causing officers' eyes to burn.

The animal rescue agency says most of the cats were hiding in kitchen cupboards, under the fridge and furniture and were suffering from numerous ailments, including dental and respiratory diseases, flea infestation and urine scald.

There was also no water for the animals to drink, and while dry cat food had been scattered on the floor, it was contaminated with urine and fecal waste.

"It's really disturbing thinking that these animals were forced to live in these conditions for goodness knows how long," Drever said. " And we're just so thankful we were able to get them out of there."

The B.C. SPCA also seized three chihuahuas alongside 120 cats from the Fort St. James trailer. They say the dogs are being treated for hair loss, grooming issues and dental diseases. (B.C. SPCA)

Drever says the B.C. SPCA has taken some of the deceased cats' bodies from the Vanderhoof property and will have necropsies performed on them to determine their cause of death. 

She says the goal for the animals found alive at the Fort St. James trailer is to assist in their full recovery and to find them forever homes. 

"It's hard on the staff caring for these animals. If they don't make it, it's just heartbreaking all around, but we're going to give it 150 per cent.

"It will take them a while to recover psychologically."

The trailer owner was not on site when the animals were rescued. 

Investigation ongoing

The B.C. SPCA is tasked with enforcing animal cruelty laws under the province's Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. It can investigate and recommend whether Crown counsel should pursue charges.

A person who commits an offence under the Act is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $75,000 or imprisonment for two years or both. 

Drever said she could not disclose details about the investigation while it is ongoing. 

"We really would want to see these individuals get the help that they need, and we would not want animals to suffer in their care ever again."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ali Pitargue is an associate producer at CBC Vancouver. You can contact her at ali.pitargue@cbc.ca.

With files from Joel Ballard

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