This year the BC SPCA rescued about 22,000 abused, abandoned or neglected animals and completed about 15,000 adoptions.
The animal welfare organization also assisted about 49,000 animals across the province, slightly more than last year.
According to Marcie Moriarty, chief prevention and enforcement officer for the BC SPCA, this year’s challenges faced by the non-profit were once again focused around animal hoarding.
“It’s a tragic situation all-around, due to the mental health challenges faced by the animal owner, living conditions for the animals’ owner is often as bad as the living conditions faced by the animals themselves,” she explained.
“It really takes a huge toll on our constables, on our staff and our volunteers to take care of these animals due to the volume in which these animals arrive at our shelters.”
Hoarding issue in Penticton
A case that highlights neglect due to hoarding is that of the 164 cats surrendered in Penticton, this past fall.
In September the South Okanagan-Similkameen BC SPCA took in 64 cats and kittens from one individual, that same person then surrendering another 100 felines in October, bringing the total to 164.
Moriarty does see a flip side to the situation when shelters take in such large numbers of animals. She said it shows the non-profit’s capacity to be able to accommodate the animals. As a province-wide charity, the BC SPCA has the ability to transfer animals between its different locations.
Communities come together
Communities across B.C. have come together in more ways than one to support animals over this past year, said Moriarty.
“Year-after-year, we see a growing response from people when we see these larger rescue cases and it’s heart-warming.”
In February more than 45 dogs were seized by the BC SPCA from a half-acre property north of Williams Lake on Highway 97. The dogs were placed in the care of several shelters throughout the province, including Kelowna which took in 20 of the animals.
At the time Kelowna branch manager Sean Hogan said the shelter usually only has at the most eight dogs in their care at a time and so having the 20 dogs demanded more work and attention by staff and volunteers.
The dogs, which were a mix of American Eskimo, Husky, Border Collie and Samoyed-cross breeds, had a range of behavioural issues, which included signs of anxiety and fear.
However, the community of Williams Lake, where the dogs were seized from, heard Kelowna’s call for help and a group of volunteers jumped into action.
Self-described dog lover Gale Lamothe put a message out on social media asking for help to sew several dozen dog beds. Volunteers from 150 Mile House, Williams Lake and McLeese Lake replied and set to work completing more than 50 dog beds in 13 hours. The beds along with food and supplies were then trucked up to Kelowna and donated to the BC SPCA.
“Animals seem to reach out to people, in the most vulnerable spot where they want to take care of them and the Williams Lake dogs are a perfect example of this,” said Moriarty.
Terry Baker, the man whom the BC SPCA seized the dogs from, has been formally charged with two counts of animal cruelty.
Wildfire season 2018
Community support is what Moriarty believes keeps everyone going at the BC SPCA, and that couldn’t be truer than during wildfire season.
“We were able to band together as communities to provide a safety net for animals and their people,” she said. “But, [the wildfire season] also shows the dire need to formalize a provincial approach to dealing with these animals in these circumstances and that is something the BC SPCA is currently working on.”
Last year, the BC SPCA worked to rescue animals from the threat of wildfire in the Cariboo region while this summer the northern part of the province and Prince George was the focus. Constables not only evacuated animals from homes and farms, but many stayed with the animals that could not be evacuated providing round-the-clock care.
“When we are looking at how to plan for these emergency situations, to ignore animals is at our peril because it has been demonstrated that people delay or are hesitant to leave their homes in emergencies if they have to leave their animals behind,” explained Moriarty. “We are looking forward to really working with both the province and municipality on the area of animal care during emergencies.”
Happy endings can come true for animals in care
This year was also filled with rescues that ended in the animals finding loving homes – even when the odds of surviving the trauma were stacked against them.
A two-year-old boxer, now named Cedric, was found “grossly underweight, with a body condition score of only one out of nine” when he was rescued from a Vancouver property in February.
The emaciated boxer was suffering from pressure sores and injuries due to a foreign object lodged in his intestines.
Following surgeries to repair the damage, which cost an estimated $9,000, the boxer was on the road to recovering in what veterinarians called a miracle.
Cedric is now been adopted by a new family. Two Vancouverites have also been charged in their alleged roles in Cedric’s suffering.
Looking ahead to 2019, the BC SPCA will be building on their strategic plan and how to better protect vulnerable animals and people.
“We want to enhance our protection and our care and inspire our communities to be more humane,” said Moriarty.
The BC SPCA has sought experts in the area of animal hoarding to assist them in developing a strategy to prevent the cases or more effectively deal with them when they arise.
“We need to do a better job a looking at what will prevent these types of instances from happening and what type of punishments will stop the cycle of abuse, what is most effective.”
The types of charges that can be laid against animal abusers do vary between hoarding situations and neglect, such as the case with Karin and Catherine Adams in Quesnel – chronic offenders who currently had a 20-year ban on owning animals.
“They have no regard for the animals and they are jumping provinces, and those are the cases that I absolutely want charges and convictions and bans on owning animals, and harsh penalties which include incarceration.”
This would stand for the case of Teddy, the dog in Duncan who died from severe neglect.
“There is no excuse for that,” said Morality. “But, if you want to look at a silver lining it really did bring that community together, and provide an opportunity in the community to look for better support from within.”
The case mobilized animal rights groups, with numerous rallies and a call for changes to animal rights laws. Protesters have been stationed peacefully outside the Duncan courthouse on most of Joe and Melissa Tooshley’s court dates, regardless of if they were in attendance or not.
Othere cases highlighted by the BC SPCA this year:
- 45 badly neglected Havanese dogs taken into care in Victoria
- 16 dogs seized from Karin and Catherine Adams in Quesnel – chronic offenders who currently had a 20-year ban on owning animals
- 51 neglected animals seized in Chilliwack– 24 Persian cats, nine dogs and 18 rabbits