There’s something that’s been bothering me for a long time, but I haven’t been sure how to address it.
I think the animal welfare community enables hoarders.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund states that hoarding is the number one animal cruelty crisis facing companion animals in the US. And it’s also a crisis in other parts of the world.
Here in the US, it’s estimated that a quarter of a million animals are victims of hoarders. Anywhere between 900 and 2000 cases are reported each year. Hoarders may have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of animals that, if removed, will need care.
So why do I think we enable hoarders?
We give them money because we believe them when they say they’re helping animals. They beg for money for vet bills, and we give it to them. We give them money because they step up and “save” an animal from “Death Row.” And because some hoarders are quite sophisticated, they register as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and elicit donations from us that we gladly give them for the “wonderful work that they do,” when we don’t have a clue what they’re doing.
We give their rescued animals lots of attention. When the 700 cats at Caboodle Ranch were rescued, there were groups from all over the country sending people to Florida to help care for the animals, and many rescues offered to help place the cats. The ASPCA enlisted bloggers to help spread the word that these animals needed to be adopted. And that’s great, but that means that 700 animals that were already in rescue weren’t adopted into those homes, and people who, for whatever reason, could no longer care for their companion animal, could not do the responsible thing and surrender that animal to a no-kill shelter because there was no room.
We pay for their messes. Who pays to care for the animals rescued from hoarders? You do. The money you donate to both local and national organizations goes into rescue efforts. Both the HSUS and ASPCA have rescue teams. PetSmart Charities have funds available for the groups that care for the rescued animals. You also pay through your local taxes, because there are the costs associated with law enforcement and other agencies that investigate. So while thousands of dollars are paid to care for these animals, the hoarder may very well not pay anything toward the rescue efforts.
We don’t demand laws to address the problem. What? The number one animal cruelty crisis for dogs and cats, and we don’t even have laws to address it? What’s up with that? The Animal Legal Defense Fund states that many states have no legal definition for animal hoarding. And we know that many courts don’t give animal abuse cases priority. So in many places in the US, authorities can rescue 300 animals in sad shape from a hoarding situation, charge the hoarder with 300 counts of animal cruelty, and it will most likely end up downgraded to a few charges.
And because we’re not effectively dealing with this problem, we make it very easy for hoarders to re-offend. Animal hoarding is a crime with a 100% recidivism rate. Many hoarders simply move from place to place, setting up shop and staying until they wear out their welcome, and move again. Some hoarders move as close as the next county over, where they stay under the radar.
Hoarders are NOT good people who got over their head. They are sick. They are manipulative. They are sociopaths who use animals for their own ends. I challenge you to read the case study of Vicki Kittles on the ALDF website and then tell me this woman was just over her head.
So, what’s your take? Do you think we’re effectively dealing with the problem, or do you agree that we enable hoarders?