Ingleside cat rescue was on bylaw radar; likely to come up at Wednesday council meeting

South Stormont Deputy Mayor David Smith and Mayor Bryan McGillis take part in a county council meeting on Monday, July 15, 2019. Both men say they were not aware of the extent of a cat rescue operating in an Ingleside neighbourhood. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

INGLESIDE/CORNWALL – South Stormont’s mayor and deputy mayor both say they were not aware of the extent of a cat shelter home running in an Ingleside neighbourhood.

The Knot Furgotten Cat Rescue is popular in social media circles and regularly posts about its partnership with local pet retailers for cat adoptions. The Dixon family founded the non-profit last year but has been rescuing cats for years.

The family home at 38 Santa Cruz Drive caught fire Wednesday night (July 10) and scores of cats died in the fire. There are conflicting reports on how many animals died. First responders were told that about 60 cats were at the home. South Stormont Fire Chief Gilles Crepeau told the Seaway News that 80 animals died.

“I think they (South Stormont bylaw staff) knew of the shelter but they didn’t know – and this is just my opinion – they didn’t know the extent of the shelter. Where it was and if they should have been there or not there,” Deputy Mayor Dave Smith told Cornwall Newswatch before Monday’s county council meeting.

Smith says the bylaw officer “knew about it and was dealing with it.” The deputy mayor says he “never heard of any complaints” but “it wasn’t a secret there was a family or person who was taking in strays.”

Smith doesn’t believe 80 animals died but he believes “there were a lot of the cats that were registered with the home that were farmed out to foster families. Some were out roaming like they usually do.” Later in the interview, the deputy mayor stated there were no “real solid numbers” and “they (the cats) weren’t documented.”

“I had no idea that they had that many cats there. Was there complaints about it to the municipality? Probably. But I had no knowledge that they had that many cats in that residence,” Mayor Bryan McGillis told Newswatch.

McGillis says their hands are tied at this point due to the change in enforcement rules. The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals decided not to renew its enforcement contract with the Ontario government, leaving it in the province’s hands. The province is in the process of amending the animal control legislation.

“The municipality can’t do anything about it. We can’t just walk into people’s property…because we have no weight behind us. The township has to sit down collectively and come up with some kind of a regulation under a bylaw where they change the rules where people that own pets are more responsible,” McGillis said.

“We’re not just not doing anything about it. We’re looking at this issue because it was a tragedy for everyone. But our hands are tied right now,” he said.

In South Stormont, regulations require people to have a kennel licence if they have more than three dogs, but there is no stipulation on cats, the mayor explained.

The topic of the cat rescue will “probably be brought up” at Wednesday’s South Stormont council meeting, Deputy Mayor Smith said.

A call to South Stormont bylaw enforcement officer Dan Bissonette was not immediately returned.