Superintendent describes “disgusting” scene; most cats have since found homes
BY JOHN CHICK
Special to the VOICE
An eight-month-long attempt to evict four people from a Fonthill apartment came to a head June 20 when police and animal control officers removed the group — and 43 cats — from a 600-sq. ft., one-bedroom apartment at the corner of Haist Street and Canboro Road.
Building superintendent Peter Menger said that extremely unsanitary conditions and complaints from other tenants led to the forced removal. Hydro to the unit had been shut off for more than two weeks prior to June 20 because of unpaid bills.
“It was only supposed to be one person [on the lease],” Menger said. “Then his ex-wife and two others moved in. And they only had one bed.”
Menger blamed the slow eviction process on hurdles with Ontario’s landlord-tenant act.
“It was really disgusting inside,” he said. “Four people living in there, 43 cats … it took eight months to get rid of them. That’s how slow the courts work.”
Menger said one female resident had to be forcibly removed by police.
“The one woman really gave police a hard time,” he said. “It took two officers to take her from the upstairs down. That wasn’t a pretty sight.”
Niagara Regional Police confirmed to the Voice that officers were present for the eviction.
Menger described the scene in the small apartment as repulsive.
“Cat feces all over the place,” Menger said. “I literally took out eight bags of it. They only had one kitty litter box for 43 cats … it was pretty gruesome, the smell was so bad you couldn’t stay in there very long.”
Feline fecal matter wasn’t the only excrement present, according to Menger, who also noted human waste in the bathtub.
“You haven’t seen gross until you get into a situation like this,” he said.
The three-and-a-half-dozen cats were taken by animal control to the Niagara SPCA’s Welland facility. The good news is that they were deemed to be in decent health despite their living conditions, according to the SPCA’s Amanda Ellis. Better yet, she added that most have since found new homes.
“They were healthy cats, they were screened by our veterinarians,” Ellis said. “The majority of them have already been adopted through our Seaway Mall Cat Adoption Centre.”
Menger said that an acquaintance of his pointed out that an unusual number of “lost cat” signs had been going up on utility poles around town in recent weeks. Menger said that he put two-and-two together when he recalled that many of the cats taken to the SPCA were adults.
“These people were known for taking cats, any one that was loose they would steal,” he asserted. “If someone is missing their cat, they should contact the Welland SPCA because there’s a good chance they’ll have it.”
The bad news for Menger is that he and building owner Jay Hundle were on the hook for the cats’ removal.
“We ended up paying $530 to the SPCA to come and get the cats,” Menger said. “They wouldn’t take the cats unless we paid up front.” He added they also paid the $800 hydro bill that prompted the shutoff.
Menger asserted that the same group of evicted tenants previously lived in a Welland residence, with more than 100 cats. Because they were not charged with a crime and the Voice cannot independently verify their identities, the tenants can’t be named publicly.
There are five apartment units in the building, each renting for $700-$800 per month. A restaurant, convenience store, and dog groomer occupy the retail space below. Coincidentally, Menger, now retired, played a small part in constructing the building around 1972, when he worked for a subcontractor on the site.
Menger said the apartment in question has already been cleaned top to bottom, and is in the process of being restored.
“We ended up gutting the whole place, ripping out the kitchen cupboards, fridge, stove, all the carpets had to go,” he said. “If you don’t strip it, you don’t get rid of the smell.”
A subdued feline fragrance was still present when the Voice visited the unit, which had all its windows and balcony door open. Menger pointed at the concrete floor and said that a specialized contractor would coat it with a sealer before new flooring was installed.
He thanked the other tenants of the apartment complex for their help and patience.
“Thank god for Shop-Vacs,” he joked. “One of the other tenants gave us a hand, washing all the hallway floors, wiping everything down. The tenants were pretty good about it considering what they had to put up with for eight months.”