A fresh start for the cats of Beamsville
RJ runs to the front door of a semi-detached home in a Beamsville subdivision on a recent summer afternoon.
The fluffy grey and white tabby does not play shy — he lets his visitors pick him up, pet him, give him a cuddle.
He jumps and plays about the living room, but it’s not until the treats come out that he is joined by his three brothers and sisters — Tissy, Piglet and Rogue.
It’s not known if these kittens are tied by blood, but they are siblings of circumstance.
They are among the more than 80 living cats rescued from a rundown Beamsville home over the past three weeks — a gruesome discovery in a house described as “the scene of a horror film” by at least one rescue worker.
The dozens of cats range in age from two days to seven years, including some that are pregnant.
Many had upper respiratory diseases, most were experiencing “extreme starvation” and three had to be put down because of the condition in which they were found, said Dinah Nichol of Project Save a Cat’s Life.
The ones who survived are in foster care after being saved by groups like Beamsville 4 Paw Rescue and Project Save a Cat’s Life (formed as a response to the situation at Merritt Road).
But soon they will be on the hunt for per-
AN ADOPTION EVENT is being held at the Pet Valu in Grimsby this Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to help find loving families for about 15 of these felines, with a plan to adopt the remainder out once they’re ready.
But more than 100 others, according to Beamsville 4 Paw Rescue owner Pam Huson, will not have this same opportunity.
After being tipped off about the rural property in mid-July, Huson said she arrived to find something she has never seen the likes of in her more than 20 years doing animal rescue.
There were dead cats in barrels, in garbage bags and under trees scattered across the 11-hectare property. A wooden structure with a tarp over it housed the remains of a mother cat with her kittens that appeared to die while trying to suckle.
And that’s just outside. Nichol said there are cats inside the home — under a bed, behind the front door, beneath the window — that they have not been able to get to because of the clutter and debris. “It’s a horror film,” she said. Property owner Noor Teyyab, who purchased the site about five years ago, said he had no idea what was going on at the house until he was contacted by police.
He allowed the former homeowner to rent the property from him, and while he visited once a year, he said he always stood on the road and had never entered the house before this situation was brought to light.
Teyyab said he’s been notified by the Town of Lincoln that he needs to clean up the property and is working to get that done as soon as possible.
The problem began more than 20 years ago but has significantly escalated in recent years, according to neighbour Moira Saganski.
Driving home from work, she would often find the cats littered across the dirt road leading up to her property.
But starting in July, she learned that when the vineyard staff she employs would make their way home at the end of a long day, they would be followed by cats they ended up feeding.
“They don’t have enough money to pay for cat food so I said ‘I’ll take over,’” Saganski said. “I was feeding them — I started every other day — and then I was feeding them every day.
“As soon as I came on the property, the cats would just surround me, they were so, so, so hungry.”
Saganski said she contacted the OSPCA about the situation after hearing from neighbours that they had been phoning for years.
Allison Cross, OSPCA spokesperson, said they have been investigating a possible animal cruelty situation at Merritt Road for eight months after receiving a complaint.
Since then, she said they have removed about 17 living cats from the property and have found about 10 dead ones.
It’s believed the dead cats died before being brought on the property, that they were road kill the tenant had collected and disposed of them there, Cross said.
“It is a hoarding situation,” she added. “It was a very debris-filled type property.”
Despite this, OSPCA investigators have not been finding the same conditions the rescue groups have been sounding alarm bells about, she said.
“If the animals are actually there … why are they not sharing this evidence with us?” Cross asked.
By disposing of animal carcasses and removing cats off the property, the groups are “jeopardizing the investigation”, she said.
Both the OSPCA and the rescue groups say they wonder when the other side is going to contact them about the evidence collected from the property.
Huson and Nichol said they have stopped removing dead cats from the property because they don’t want to tamper with evidence.
Cross said the investigation is ongoing and that looking into hoarding situations can take a bit longer.
Under the Ontario SPCA Act, penalties include a maximum fine of $60,000, a lifetime ban on owning an animal and up to two years in jail.
Huson and Nichol say they want the person responsible for this to be banned from ever having pets again.
And until every single cat is removed from the site, they plan to be there with their traps, food and water, hoping to find them.
On Monday, Huson said she believed only a few living cats remained on the property but said they would be the trickiest to capture.
It’s not known if there are any in the house or in the barn, she said.
Both rescues say they can use all the help they can get — whether that be volunteering time, fostering a cat or donating money or dropping off towels, litter, gift cards, blankets or crates.
While nearby veterinarians and crematoriums have been generous in donating some services, each cat they have had to pay for has cost them $250, Huson said.
Dinah Nichol, of Project Save a Cat’s Life, inside the Beamsville house that has been described as “the scene of a horror film.”
Two kittens rescued from the Beamsville home.
Dinah Nichol, of Project Save a Cat’s Life, needed a respirator just to enter the house because of the smell.
The Beamsville home where over 180 cats, both alive and dead, were found.
A cat breeding house being used on the property.
Garbage bags decomposing on the property.
A trap used by rescuers to capture the home’s remaining cats.
Inside the house.
Pam Huson, of Beamsville 4 Paw Rescue, with one of the rescued cats.
Five kittens rescued from the home.