SPCA taking empathetic approach in recent hoarding cases

·2 min read

No charges will be laid after dozens of cats and kittens were rescued recently from two animal hoarding situations in Nova Scotia.

The provincial director of care for the Nova Scotia SPCA, Sandra Flemming, said officers are instead taking an empathetic approach.

"After we remove a lot of these animals our enforcement officers will continue to go back and recheck and make sure that the person is not collecting animals again, or that we've removed all the animals and that there's none that have been left behind," she said.

Flemming said the SPCA avoids punitive approaches in hoarding cases, as that method often discourages people from seeking help.

Roughly 80 cats and kittens were brought into the society's care in recent weeks. Most of animals were seized from two properties in Pictou County and Cape Breton. A few additional cats were taken from a third property described as a feral colony.

Nova Scotia SPCA
Nova Scotia SPCA

The SPCA is now seeking public donations, estimating that the cost for veterinary care could exceed $58,000.

Speaking generally about animal hoarding, Flemming said caregivers often hold good intentions.

"We take an approach that is tailored to that individual situation," she said. "A lot of times they don't even really recognize themselves that there is a lack of proper care because they're not even living in the best conditions themselves."

Since they were seized, a deadly virus has claimed the lives of at least four of the rescued felines. The SPCA said, however, that many of the animals are currently responding well to treatment.

Animal hoarding a mental health issue

Melanie Quigg, a clinical social worker in Lower Sackville, N.S., who has been practising in the mental health field for almost 20 years, said people who hoard animals usually don't seek to harm them.

Quigg said problems arise when collecting begins to severely impact everyday lives, homes and relationships with friends and family.

She said the intention behind a person's hoarding is often very different than that of someone who is mistreating animals for profit, such as running a puppy mill.

"They actually probably care even more for those animals than people would understand," said Quigg. "They're often trying to save, you know, animals that no one else wants or they have a hard time saying no."

Quigg recommends finding supports for people who are struggling.

She said one such treatment is cognitive behavioural therapy, which examines not only a hoarder's actions, but the reasons behind problematic behaviours.