Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto bylaws can’t clean up ‘cat house’

October 30th 2012


CBC News


A home on Manor Road, in the Yonge-Davisville area, is the subject of growing concern for neighbours and community leaders because it is overflowing with boxes, garbage bags and cats.


On the surface it seems as if the solution should be simple — order the homeowner to clean up the property.


But sometimes finding a solution isn’t that easy.


Jessica Cohen has lived in the area for 14 years. She says “year after year it got worse, and worse, and worse. The cats started multiplying, and the junk started multiplying.”


And the dirt from the house started to spread.



Cohen said her “backyard [was] full of cat faeces. So every time your kids want to go out and play you have to go and make sure there is no cat poo everywhere.”


The man who lives on the property refuses to discuss the issue. He told CBC News the boxes, the bags, and the cats are not an issue. Further, he said, “you’re invading my privacy.”


Residents have called the city to complain about the eyesore, and the smell. But they say very little has been done.


“I have seen the fire department — and maybe pet services — and the police have been there on a number of occasions also,” said neighbour John McLeod.


While the city’s bylaws limit the number of cats and other animals to six per home, that isn’t as easy to enforce as some might think.


“Bylaw enforcement [officers] don’t have the legislation behind them to go and enter your house,” said local Coun. Josh Matlow who has dealt with the issue for the past few years, “that’s a police matter.”

There’s a real Catch-22 aspect to the situation.


“The police aren’t responsible for enforcing bylaws,” said Matlow. “There is one example of the disconnect that exists.”


In an email to CBC News a spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has investigated the home and didn’t find any evidence the animals are being ill-treated.


The ministry said that “[b]ased on the details we have been presented with, the situation described is not an animal welfare matter, but rather an animal control matter.”


“If it is an animal control matter, it is up to the municipality to enforce the by-laws,” the statement says.


In an attempt to solve the problem — and others like it — Matlow introduced a motion requiring all city agencies involved in cases of hoarding to work together.


And though the motion passed it’s not a permanent solution.


“There needs to be improved legislation to enable the right authorities, working with every other one, to solve the problem,” he said.


The home on Manor Road was recently boarded up by the fire department.


“Looking at the house it was determined that we needed to make sure there wasn’t a chance that any of the combustible material could be set on fire in any way,” said Chief James Stoops.


But even boarding up the house didn’t work: the man continues to live on the porch, surrounded by his collection and his cats.


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