Victoria woman charged with animal cruelty after cat dies from flea infestation

SPCA constable encourages owners to keep pets' fleas in check

A Victoria woman has been charged with animal cruelty, after a heavily flea-infested, sickly cat rescued from a Gorge Road residence died in March.

A veterinarian who arrived at the home after being called by a family member was told the three-year-old Persian hadn’t eaten in four days and was lying in her box howling in pain, according to the vet’s report. The cat, which was lethargic and unresponsive, died of cardiac arrest a short time after the intervention, having lost blood and suffered other complications due to the flea infestation, said B.C. SPCA special constable Erika Paul.

She admitted the case may not have been uncovered had the veterinarian not been called to check on the problem with the cat. The charges were based on evidence from the veterinarian.

“Most of our investigations are complaint driven,” Paul said.

While fleas are common around Greater Victoria, serious infestations can be easy to spot, she said, by the animal constantly scratching, as well as humans sustaining numerous flea bites.

Infestations leading to death are more common in younger animals whose immune systems are not as developed, Paul said.

Maureen Silva, charged Tuesday after an investigation, makes her first court appearance Aug. 29 to face animal cruelty charges under the Criminal Code and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

If found guilty, she faces a fine of up to $10,000, a maximum of 18 months jail time and a prohibition on owning animals.

In general, it costs about $20 a month for dogs and $18 for cats to keep flea problems under control, Paul said.

“The bottom line is if they have a pet, take care of them,” she said. “If (the animal seems) uncomfortable, address that. There’s very effective flea products out there.”

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