Handling of northern Ontario animal abandonment case concerns rescuers

Some Sudbury, Ont. residents are concerned about the handling of a case involving animals abandoned last week in a Sudbury apartment.

Three cats, 11 kittens and a rabbit were found abandoned in Sudbury, Ont. apartment

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      Three cats, 10 newborn kittens and a rabbit were abandoned in an apartment in Sudbury. We heard from the animal rescue company that facilitated the rescue of these animals and from one of the volunteers who took part in the rescue. 5:54

      Some residents in the northern Ontario community of Sudbury, who work and volunteer in the field of animal rescue, are concerned about how an apparent case of animal neglect and abandonment has been handled.

      Three cats, 11 kittens and a rabbit were found abandoned in a downtown Sudbury apartment last week. They had been left behind when their owner vacated the apartment.

      All of the animals were alive, except one kitten.

      Valerie Dufresne, who volunteered to rescue the animals, said she was shocked by what she saw when she entered the apartment. 

      "There were animal feces scattered everywhere, there was no food, there was literally piles and piles of garbage," she said. 

      "The bedroom the kittens were found in was completely trashed — piled high with garbage with random items. The couch that we found the kittens in was turned upside down. The smell was absolutely unhealthy." 

      A superintendent in the building estimates the animals had been on their own for a week. Dufresne said she had never seen a scene like it before. 

      "It was absolutely heartbreaking. I was in complete shock." 

      Lynne Regimbal of Furever Furbaby Rescue and Valerie Dufresne, a volunteer rescuer, are concerned about the treatment of animals found in an Elm Street apartment unit. (Samantha Lui/CBC)

      Lynne Regimbal, the manager of a local animal rescue company called Furever Furbaby Rescue, organized volunteers to get the animals out. 

      She was alerted by the apartment's superintendent and reported the incident to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. However, she was not happy with the response she received. 

      "She said it was not their problem. There was nothing they could do and that it was a landlord-tenant act law. And for the landlord to take care of the situation," Regimbal said. 

      "Definitely, [I] believe this is an SPCA issue. This is not somebody surrendering their animal or an animal running at large. These are animals that were left abandoned. I don't see how this is left on the landlord or the rescues to clean this up." 

      Investigation continues

      In a written statement to CBC News, the OSPCA said they are currently investigating the matter. In the note, it also stated that a break-and-enter occurred during the investigation and the animals were stolen. 

      "We believe the people that took the animals thought that the animals were in immediate distress and believed they were doing the right thing," the statement read. 

      "We want to strongly remind the public that we must work with in the law and taking the law into your own hands can cause serious repercussions to both the animals involved and could jeopardize the investigation. In addition, you could face charges such as theft, interfering with an investigation and/or breaking and entering." 

      Animals 'have rights' 

      An online petition has since been set up by the group Reform Advocates for Animal Welfare. The group is calling on the Ontario government to investigate the OSPCA. 

      Meanwhile, Regimbal is worried about the health of the animals, especially the rabbit. 

      "Word has it is the rabbit is very skinny," she said. "[The rescuers] don't know if it'll make it." 

      Dufresne on the other hand, has a message for other pet owners. 

      "Get your cats, dogs, animals spayed and neutered. Don't take on more than what you can handle," she said. 

      "If you ever see that you're in a situation that you can't handle and you have animals that need immediate housing, definitely contact the rescues and the agencies that are put in place to deal with this. These animals need a voice. They have rights." 

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