Nfld. & Labrador

Abandoned cats rescued from N.L. dump

A dozen cats were rescued on Wednesday after having been abandoned at a dump on Newfoundland and Labrador's southern shore.

A dozen cats were rescued on Wednesday after having been abandoned at a dump on Newfoundland and Labrador's southern shore.

A team from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in St. John's collected the cats at the site of the former dump in Harricott, about 90 kilometers southwest of the city.

The cats were part of a larger colony that lived at the dump although it's unclear exactly how many animals were ditched there, said the shelter's manager, Susan Deir.

"We'd gotten a visit from somebody yesterday [Tuesday] at the shelter who said there were many cats here, that he'd been feeding them for several months," said Deir.

The man estimated up to 40 stray cats were wandering around the dump site at one point, she said.

The SPCA used traps to catch the animals, baiting them with cat food and tuna fish.  However, catching them was a challenge because they are so malnourished that they're not heavy enough to set off the spring that closes the cage door.

"I don't know what they're living on," said Deir. "I guess they're living on rodents or whatever scraps of food they can find or whatever people are dumping illegally here. It's just an existence, and that's really not good enough.

"They're going to die eventually. I just think it's sad that they're going to die a long, cruel death."

Even though the cats are being rescued from a death by starvation, not all of them will survive. Some will have to be euthanized because the SPCA won't be able to find new owners for them all, said shelter volunteer Cheryl Ellis.

"We wont be able to re-home them," said Ellis. "These cats are feral cats; they're sick cats. The bottom line is there's too many cats and not enough homes."

The St. John's SPCA website says the shelter can comfortably hold 20 cats and 12 dogs at any given time.

Even if the cats were healthy, staff would still have a hard time finding permanent homes for them, said Ellis.

"At least when we go on properties with dogs, many of them we can bring back to the shelter because they are adoptable, or at least just with some basic training, they can be adopted, but these poor darlings don't stand a chance."

Deir said that although the SPCA's capacity is limited, pet owners who can no longer care for their animals have better options than simply dumping them somewhere.

"Bring it to the shelter and let us deal with it; phone for advice; anything," Deir said. "Don't just dump them here where they have absolutely no means of survival."

The dump where the cats were found had recently been closed as part of the provincial government's plan to phase out more than 150 smaller landfills. Some of the other closed dumps across the region might also have a problem with abandoned cats, Deir study.