The Nova Scotia SPCA says it needs help to deal with a growing number of cases of animal hoarding around the province.
Earlier this month, the agency seized 52 cats from a single home in Sydney, said executive director Kristin Williams.
Investigators took the females and kittens first to prevent further breeding and sent them to animal shelters. The homeowner kept 15 male cats.
Williams said this case came on the heels of one in Halifax where 54 cats were found in a single apartment.
She said the SPCA receives up to three complaints a week this time of year during breeding season, and most of the cases involve more than 20 cats in one home.
Williams said there are investigations underway in Stewiacke, Lunenburg and in the Annapolis Valley, but she can't give details.
"This is a terribly emotional subject for individuals involved in hoarding, which is why we do not share the specific details of any particular case because we know there's a matter of pride and embarrassment and shame associated with hoarding," she said.
Williams said cases of animal hoarding are complicated and few result in charges of animal cruelty.
"I don't think there's been a single case that the SPCA has investigated that didn't also have some other element or complication. For instance, addiction is quite prevalent, mental illness is quite prevalent, there are economic barriers that are issues," she said.
There's a difference between hoarding animals and having a lot of pets, according to the U.S.-based Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium.
The group says hoarders are unable to provide minimal standards of care for their animals, leaving them sick, starving and dying. Many hoarders are in denial about their inability to feed and tend to their animals.
Williams said the SPCA is the only agency in Nova Scotia that deals with animal hoarding.
"It's really not even recognized or mandated by Community Services to address. So we really feel at this point that we're just dealing with the symptoms and not the disease," she said.
Williams said the SPCA has limited resources to deal with animal hoarding and needs help from veterinarians, the provincial government and the public.