John Doppler Schiff: Warning Signs of a Hoarder

Yesterday I shared with you a conversation with John Doppler Schiff about the Caboodle Ranch and the backlash when this massive hoarder was shut down. 

This is what Caboodle Ranch's website told you was happening there.
This is what Caboodle Ranch’s website told you was happening there.

Today we’ll end with some recommendations for making sure you are not enabling a hoarder.

But first, I had to know, do people still send Craig Grant money?

Schiff:  Yes, Caboodle Ranch still receives a tiny smattering of donations from their core supporters and the occasional animal lover unaware of the Ranch’s history. But the days of quarter million dollar annual donations are long gone. Craig Grant remains more than $100,000.00 in debt, he is under the shadow of federal tax liens, and there is the ongoing question of how much of Caboodle Ranch’s donations are being illegally diverted to pay his debts.

This is not a position from which any rational person would attempt to start an animal sanctuary.

Me:  And yet, as you say, he is planning to do just that. What advice do you have to help us spot hoarders and exploiters like Grant?

Schiff:  Animal welfare cons are one of the fastest growing forms of fraud, and hoarding is rampant. Always do your homework before you consider donating to any cause.

1. Research the organization. Look for complaints of fraud, neglect, or cruelty and consider them carefully.

2. Don’t mistake a 501(c)(3) tax exemption as proof of a group’s trustworthiness. All that’s required to obtain a 501(c)(3) is paperwork and a modest fee, and there is virtually no oversight.

3. An organization which takes in animals but does not adopt out or rehome them may be a front for a hoarder. No reputable organization has the resources to take in an unlimited number of animals.

And this is what was actually going on. Yes, that is a cat that has been dead for quite awhile.
And this is what was actually going on. Yes, that is a cat that has been dead for quite awhile.

4. Ensure that the organization has sufficient staff to care for the animals they take in.

5. Avoid organizations that will not reveal how many animals they take in and the outcomes of those cases.

6. Avoid organizations that are constantly in dire straits, begging for funds to pay the utilities, etc. That’s the mark of a poorly run organization on the brink of collapse.

7. If an organization asks for all donations in the form of cash or gift cards, that’s a huge red flag. Offer to purchase pet supplies rather than handing over cash.

8. If donating for surgery or urgent medical care, donate funds directly through the veterinarian’s office.

9. Beware organizations that reject volunteers and do not allow visits to their facility.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! A group that is continually defensive or refuses to answer reasonable questions is probably hiding something.

Above all, don’t rely on the organization’s assurances that everything is okay. Reputable organizations have a good relationship with their neighbors, animal control agencies, and animal welfare groups. If the organization is at war with whistleblowers, that should tell you there’s a significant problem.

Me: I want to add this: One-fourth of all cases of hoarding investigated each year involve a rescue group. I can’t stress enough to you all how important it is to not send money to suspicious groups. You may think you’re doing it for the animals, but they’ll never see it.

30 thoughts on “John Doppler Schiff: Warning Signs of a Hoarder

      1. I know Rumpy, here they supported a hoarder-woman even after they saw what she did to many dogs&cats. But I always hope it will be better with more information and enlightenment… Hope is the last thing to die.

  1. While it is true that there are numerous hoarders and fraudsters out there, there are an equal if not greater number of dedicated, legitimate rescues and shelters. Two that come to mind, are Old Fella Burke County Animal Rescue, of Georgia, and Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, Mass. I have personally dealt with both organizations and Jack is living proof of their commitment to the values we all hold as supporters of animal well being. I just felt the need to say that, because of all the negative press that orgs like Caboodle Ranch generate. Like anything else in life, we can tend to become embittered by evil doers, and we end up turning our backs on the good people out there who need our help.

    It is sad, but activists tend to place a huge value on their causes, and that opens the door for fraudsters and con men. You see bad actors in every cause you take up. The prison reform movement is rife with fraud as well. It just makes it 10 times harder for the good and committed people – like the followers of this awesome page – to do their work.

  2. since I started using social media network, I see the word ‘ please donate for poor animals ‘ many times and in fact I’ve been sometimes suspicious if they are safe enough to donate……I think that I should do more research about the organization before donation…..I don’t want to help any hoarders…….

  3. I agree with the idea of know who you are supporting. There are many great organizations out there who rely on volunteers and donations – if you take the time to do research and when possible visit in person, there are some very worthwhile places for our limited time and incomes to support.

  4. it’s like someone wrote earlier — it’s really helpful to actually GO LOOK. and there’s so many to choose from, there’s always an outfit nearby!

  5. I’ve forwarded this to some of my friends that are thinking of adopting through a rescue group in Florida. It is food for thought as they did not want to answer many questions and have held out on an adoption that should have been a no brainer.

  6. I can never let my cats see that first picture. They already want the gardening shed; that photo would tip them over the edge and they would demand their own little houses. And a picnic table. And parties.

    This list – how to spot a hoarder/con scheme – is wonderful. I’m going to bookmark it and share it with all my friends who donate to rescue foundations.

    When I donate to local shelters, it’s in the form of food and cat litter and the like, stuff I know is needed and will be used. Thankfully, they all tell you up front what brands to buy so it’s super easy; I mean, I’m buying that stuff anyway, what’s a couple more bags?

  7. When we adopted our dog from a shelter, we went a few times and asked lots of questions. Only until two weeks later did we actually get the dog, do some research and don’t get an animal the first time you go.

  8. Wow this is great information, thanks Rumpy. There’s so much more to think about when it comes to making donations “in good faith” – we have to be really vigilant these days.

  9. Thank you for this important and informative post, Rumpy. It really is so crucial to ask questions, and to go and see for yourself. It’s sad that it is so, but that way you can be more certain you are actually helping animals…

    1. It’s also sad that because of the bad actors in the game, rescues like PAWS have to work that much harder to ensure people know you’re different.

  10. I had no idea hording involved rescue groups, so this was a real eye opener, and you have done a great service posting about it. I may do a post about rescues and hording as well. When I adopted Mica Moo, I couldn’t pick her up and take her home. They brought her to my house so they could be sure she was going to a good home – not a lab or to some horder. We should be diligent when considering supporting rescues too.

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