Animal rescue

Abandoned dogs sent to local shelter

Several dogs abandoned in an east Hamilton home have been turned over to an animal shelter weeks after their owners were evicted from the property and left them behind.

The Highland Avenue home where the dogs were left has been a point of contention for the Crown Point East neighborhood. Nearby residents contacted The Spectator earlier this month to express concern about animal welfare.

Bryan Ortiz and Karina Loayza in front of the house they own on Highland Avenue. Previous tenants left behind six dogs and two cats, who were eventually rescued. The couple were cautioning protective clothing and masks on Saturday as they began the process of cleaning the home which had been badly damaged by tenants and animals.The Hamilton Spectator

Owner and owner Karina Loayza said six dogs were removed from the home on October 15 and turned over by the former tenants to a local rescue, No Dog Left Behind. However, Loayza said it took more than two weeks to get action on the situation, despite repeated calls to the local SPCA, Hamilton Animal Services and Provincial Animal Welfare (PAWS).

“It was very upsetting,” Loayza’s husband Bryan Ortiz said. “We have all these agencies, but none of them were willing to do anything for the dogs.”

Loayza said the saga of the abandoned dogs began in early October, just after the tenants were evicted from the house after not paying rent for several months.

Bryan Ortiz looks at his kitchen which was damaged by their former tenants.  They ended up with thousands of people in repairs, along with cockroaches, bed bugs and animal droppings.
Bryan Ortiz looks at his kitchen which was damaged by their former tenants. They ended up with thousands of people in repairs, along with cockroaches, bed bugs and animal droppings.The Hamilton Spectator

When Loayza and Ortiz arrived at the house on October 2 to make sure everything had been moved, they discovered that six dogs and a number of cats had been left in the house by tenants.

The couple contacted the tenants about the animals, but were told they “couldn’t bring them in and were just going to leave them there,” Loayza said.

A few days later, a reporter for The Spectator was informed of the situation by a concerned neighbor, who did not want to be named for security reasons.

A reporter visited the home earlier this month and found the property’s front yard littered with trash and two empty pet food bowls. Through the backyard fence, animal droppings could be seen on the deck.

At least one dog was barking inside as it poked its head through the window coverings. A couple of cats could be seen sitting on the roof.

The neighbor told The Spectator that she, too, called animal services and 911 for help with the situation, to no avail. Another neighbor said she also called provincial animal welfare.

“I didn’t see anyone passing by the house,” said the neighbor who first contacted the newspaper. “I am concerned for the welfare of the animals.”

At the time, city spokeswoman Michelle Shantz told The Spectator that animal control officers “do not have the authority to remove a person’s property – including pets. – without the consent of the owner”.

The Hamilton-Burlington SPCA also told the Spectator that they “no longer have animal protection officers who would respond to such a call.”

The two organizations have designated PAWS – which falls under the Ministry of the Solicitor General – as the agency to deal with suspected cases of animal abuse in the province.

Brent Ross, a ministry spokesman, told The Spectator on Oct. 6 that officers had visited the home “several times” to carry out inspections and found the animals to be “in good physical condition and we took care of them”.

Loayza said that despite tenants claiming the dogs were fed every day, the condition the house was left in tells a different story about how the animals were treated.

The finished basement of the house was littered with the belongings of evicted tenants and a putrid layer of animal feces.
The finished basement of the house was littered with the belongings of evicted tenants and a putrid layer of animal feces.The Hamilton Spectator

“I don’t think anyone was ready to smell what this house smelled like,” she said, noting that the dogs probably hadn’t been let out of the house since they had been abandoned. “The basement was covered in feces.”

In the cockroach-infested kitchen, cabinets are damaged and broken and animal droppings litter the floor.
In the cockroach-infested kitchen, cabinets are damaged and broken and animal droppings litter the floor.The Hamilton Spectator

And with the dogs finally out of the house and safe thanks to a rescue, Ortiz and Loayza face a long and expensive process to get the house up and running so their family can move in.

“Every possible surface inside this house has been destroyed,” Loayza said. “Floors, walls, all appliances.”

A pile of dead cockroaches swept up in the kitchen sits alongside destroyed baseboards.
A pile of dead cockroaches swept up in the kitchen sits alongside destroyed baseboards.The Hamilton Spectator

The house is also infested with cockroaches and bed bugs, Loayza noted. Ortiz estimates the couple will need to invest more than $100,000 in renovations and upkeep in the home.

That’s on top of more than $40,000 in unpaid rent and utilities owed to them by the tenants, who moved in in March 2020 and stopped paying their bills a few months later, Loayza noted.

The house on Highland Avenue in Hamilton's east end where six dogs were rescued after their owners left them behind.
The house on Highland Avenue in Hamilton’s east end where six dogs were rescued after their owners left them behind.The Hamilton Spectator

These unpaid bills resulted in an increase in their mortgage payment and a lien to be put on the house. Ortiz, who works in construction, said he had to take extra shifts to keep up with payments.

“It was really tough,” Loayza said. “It’s going to take a long time and a lot of manpower to make it livable again.”