A local family is making headlines for a story that is literally bat poop crazy. The 150-year-old farmhouse that Katrina Arcand and Matthew Dewan bought two years ago was supposed to be their forever home. With a fourteen-year old and three children under three, the large farmhouse seemed like the perfect place to raise a big family in the peace and quiet of the country.
It all started the summer after they moved in, when they noticed an overwhelming odour in the house, but chalked it up to “old house smell”, or dead mice. It wasn’t until this past summer, when they saw bats flying out of their roof, that they thought there could be more to the smell. It turned out there were hundreds of bats living in their attic.
They hired a bat specialist, who told them that the bats in their attic and walls had been there for decades. This wasn’t caught when the couple bought the house, because, at the time, the attic hatch was sealed. Upon further investigation, they also found that there was up to four feet of bat guano (feces) in their attic which was seeping through the ceilings and walls. Bats can carry rabies, and bat guano can cause histoplasmosis, which is a serious health issue.
With this horrifying information, it was clear to Katrina and Matthew that something needed to be done. Unfortunately, the best option was to remove the bats from the attic, and then tear down and rebuild the house from scratch. This was going to cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars and their insurance company was saying they weren’t going to cover any of it. Unfortunately, most insurance policies don’t cover damage done by animals.
For almost seven months, the Arcand-Dewan family lived in the bat-infested house, hoping that no one would get sick. “It weighed on us every day,” Matthew says. “We thought about moving out and living in our parents’ basements.”
As a last resort, Katrina’s sister made a Go Fund Me account in hopes of raising some of the money needed to give the family a safe place to live. The story spread like wildfire over social media and was picked up by several local news organizations, including the Ottawa Citizen and CTV News. Support started pouring in, not just in donations, but also in words of encouragement and offers to help in any way possible. Matthew says that contractors, roofers, framers, homebuilders and bat specialists all contacted them to see how they could lend a hand. “We still feel like we are living in a dream,” he says.
With all the online recognition and support, the insurance company finally came through and are providing the family with a cottage in Pakenham to stay in while they are looking for a more permanent place to live. The insurance company is going through the motions to make sure the home is safe for workers and, once that is done, they will work on the exclusion (a safe way of evicting animals) of the bats from the attic and demolition and re-build of the house. They are estimating that it will be about a year before the Arcand-Dewan family will be able to move into their new bat-free home. “It’s a unique situation for everyone involved,” Matthew says.
Katrina and Matthew are overwhelmed by the support of people from near and far who donated money and reached out. Now that the insurance company has taken over, all the money from the Go Fund Me account has been returned to the donors. “Social media saved our family,” Matthew says. “We can’t express how happy and thankful we are.”