House fire prompts call for tougher rules around fostering animals
LONDON, ONT. -- Neighbours are calling for stricter rules around foster homes for cats and dogs after fire ripped through one side of a duplex that housed more than 40 felines.
Sean O’Connell and his mother Karen O’Connell live at 66 Snowdon Crescent, which is attached to 68 Snowdon, where the fire occurred.
“She put her life at risk,” says Karen, who on Wednesday was still visibly shaken by the experience. “All the animals in her care were put at risk. And the fallout from that is she put us at risk.”
Last Friday the pair helped to remove and temporarily shelter a number of cats that were inside the home next door, while firefighters rescued 25 cats. Four felines perished. A number of dogs were also saved.
“Those firemen walked in, they had no idea what they were walking into,” says Karen. “The look on their faces when they came out and realized 'We have a horde of cats in here.'”
Sean had a chance to look inside the home in the aftermath of the fire, and he says many cats were being kept in cages with no chance of escaping. “My first reaction was 'This is a death trap,’” he exclaimed.
The resident of 68 Snowdon, Bonnie Smith, is connected to a city-approved animal foster organization.
She tells CTV News the home was operating within the existing rules for animal foster homes.
“It wouldn't have mattered if I had three cats, forty cats, whatever,” she insists. “It wasn't because of the cats the fire started, and it was a well-managed, well-run system that we had going.”
Under the rules, established by city council in 2014, there is no limit to the number of cats and dogs allowed in animal foster homes.
At that time city staff had recommended a maximum of 10 animals per foster home, but public input swayed council to place no limit.
Manager of bylaw enforcement, Orest Katolyk, says staff will recommend re-visiting the original recommendation of a 10-pet limit for animal foster homes.
“When you have no limits on the animals you have unintended consequences, and these consequences could be negative impacts on the neighbours, and also on the well-being of the animals.”
The London Fire Department said the cause of the fire remains undetermined.
The O’Connells are calling the situation a case of “kitty hoarding,” and they believe it was a disaster waiting to happen.
Sean adds, “If these people run these types of organizations they need to be held to account, for both the animals’ welfare and also the people that are around it, like us. Otherwise, it's just unacceptable behaviour.”