A Brantford woman believes there may be more animals in a Burford home where more than 40 dogs were found earlier this month after one of their owners died.
Cassia Bryden, operator of Brantford’s Sato Saved End of the Line Dog Rescue, said she was returning to the home Oct. 7 to search for several more dogs and one or two cats that may be in hiding.
“I haven’t slept for five days,” said Bryden. “I want to make sure every one of them gets out.”
Sato Saved is one of several animal rescue groups helping with the rescue after Brant OPP responded to a call about a death in the Burford home on Oct. 2.
“These dogs now have a chance,” said Bryden. “With time, they will get better and find loving homes after all of this.”
She said the rescue call is one she’ll “never forget.”
“Never in a million years did I think I would ever see anything like this. I went in wandering through feces and rescued the dogs. The house needs to be condemned.”
Brant OPP Const. Conrad Vitalis said the man died from natural causes.
“This is when we noticed the state of the dogs inside the home,” said Vitalis, adding that police called Hillside Kennels Animal Control in Innerkip.
“It is an unfortunate situation but hopefully the dogs will recover and do well.”
Bryden, who also works for Hillside, said 47 dogs were taken from the home over several days.
“There are still a few dogs that need rescuing from the home,” she said. “It could take some time due to the severe conditions in the home and the state of the dogs. I went in and got the dogs out. Some of the dogs are feral. They are afraid and are hiding in corners. This can take some time but I am working with the homeowner to get them out.
“I promised the owner I’d advocate for every dog. Not one of them has shown any vicious behaviour.”
Bryden said the animal owners likely suffered from mental health and hoarding issues.
Many of the dogs – mostly large breeds, including shepherd, lab and Rottweiler mixes – were found with skin ailments and were starved and severely underweight, she said. They range in age from about seven months to seven years old.
Despite the poor condition of the dogs, Bryden said she has compassion for the owners, who had become overwhelmed by the situation.
“The owner is very remorseful and sad. The homeowners are accountable, yes, but they have been battling mental health issues for years. The woman living in the home recently lost her husband. They have both reached out for help in the past. They called the society for the (Ontario) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals numerous times but there was never any follow-up from them.”
Logan White, manager of fundraising and resource management for the Brant County SPCA, said she is unfamiliar with this specific case but emphasized that dog rescue efforts have been made in the past by the agency.
“We did recently deal with the rescue of several animals in June,” said White. “If it’s a case of animal cruelty, it would be reported. The (SPCA) offers programs, including the Pets for Life Program and the Community Emergency Program, for anyone in need of assistance.”
With most of the animals now taken from the home, the focus has shifted to making sure the animals are properly cared for.
Seven pet rescue organizations have stepped in to help, including Hillside Kennels, Pet Save Sudbury, and an operation based in North Bay. The cats found in the home were taken to Purrfect Companions in Norfolk County and a turtle was taken by Tropical Fish Room in Brantford.
“This is such a sad situation,” said Bryden. “I just want to clear this up. Right now, it’s about looking after these dogs. Some are still very timid and scared. It could take weeks or longer, but some of the dogs are already starting to wag their tails and are coming around.”
To help with the costs associated with the rescue, Hillside Kennels posted a fundraiser this week on its Facebook page. As of Thursday afternoon, almost $17,000 had been raised. Bryden said all the money will go toward veterinary care for the animals.
“Donations keep coming in,” Bryden said.
“My porch is a mountain of boxes. I just started crying when I saw it. We are so thankful for all of the community support. The University of Guelph is also helping us. Everyone has been so generous.”
Bryden has even taken one of the rescued dogs into her own home.
“The dog is six or seven months old. I have a six-year-old boy, so the dog is getting lots of love right now.”
To donate or for more information, visit Hillside’s Facebook page.