An animal welfare group rescued 23 kittens from a property in the Port Renfrew area on Saturday.
The cats were taken into care after they were discovered locked up in a house without food or water.
“We did not have the option of refusing to help in this hoarding situation,” said Margarita Dominguez, founder of the Sooke Animal Food and Rescue Society (SAFARS). “It was just terrible.”
When SAFARS volunteers arrived, the kittens, who ranged from a few days old to five weeks old, were scattered through the house – some found inside unfinished walls – but in good health, Dominguez said.
The latest rescue comes as the BC SPCA is seeing more large-scale intake of animals this year, said communications manager Lorie Chortyk.
“We suspect that part of the reason for this is that people were more isolated during the past two years, with fewer family members and others going into people’s homes, so if someone was struggling with a hoarding issue, it might have gone unnoticed and have grown over the past couple of years.”
Rescuing such a large number of animals at once puts a tremendous strain on groups like SAFARS and the resources they have available, which are largely donation-based.
There is a need in Sooke for an animal shelter and changes to municipal animal protection bylaws, Dominguez said.
“Unfortunately, due to municipal bylaws based on a recommendation from the BCSPCA, a kitten over four-month-old is considered an adult cat. Consequently, animal rescue groups cannot house more than four or six adult cats in less than five to 10 acres of land in 12 of the 13 Capital Region municipalities.”
The number of animals allowed in a municipal animal bylaw issue is not something the SPCA would decide, Chortyk said, adding the SPCA is supportive of rescue groups.
Animal protection officers cover all areas of the province, so if there is a concern about animals being abandoned or in distress, people are encouraged to call the BC SPCA call centre at 1-855-622-7722. SAFARS is available at 778-352-2999.
SAFARS has also launched a GoFundMe page to help spay or neuter abandoned cats.