Hoarders, Hoarders EVERYWHERE!

One of the arguments that the ASPCA and others frequently use to fight shelter access legislation (or support their own legislation to strengthen the ability of shelters to keep rescue groups out) is the risk that animals will go to hoarders. To hear them tell it, there are hoarders everywhere, hiding under every rock, every nook and cranny!

That argument is always a red herring. Here’s why: there are very few animal hoarders in the world, even though the ones who manage to collect many animals are always news stories because of the shocking visuals. It’s unusual enough that it was not formally defined in public health literature until 1999 and still lacks distinct classification as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of psychiatry. Today, I did a search on pet-abuse.com, a website that tracks animal cruelty cases in the US. I searched for a radius of 10 miles of my zip code, which would include all of New York City and a heavily populated area of New Jersey as well. Since Jan 1, 2011 in one of the most populated areas in the US there were two cases related to animal hoarding.

Shelters who do a lot of killing will tell you that one of the reasons they don’t work more with rescue groups is the risk of hoarding, but that risk as we can see is extremely low. My local shelter is New York City Animal Care and Control, which has a kill rate of around 1/3 of intake. They and the ASPCA and others will tell you that one of the reasons they need to control rescue access is hoarding, to the tune of killing 1/3 of the animals in their care to prevent it. 1/3 that might – very rarely – end up with a hoarder, getting a definite death instead to prevent that very slim possibility.

It should also be noted that a well-run shelter is a difficult place to hoard animals from. There are fees involved, paperwork, chips implanted to track animals – the shelters I volunteer with stay registered on the chips for their animals and will help them if they are ever found to be in trouble, wherever they are, even if they have to send someone to get them. It would be much easier for a hoarder to acquire “free to good home” animals from the classifieds, pick up free kittens in Wal-Mart parking lots, or even just hang a shingle outside saying “Joe’s Animal Rescue” and watch them come pouring in.

I’m not saying there aren’t hoarders in the world, there certainly are, and we need to learn a lot more about the psychology of animal hoarding and how it can be helped and cured – because untreated the recidivism rate among hoarders is near 100%, making legal intervention a temporary fix at best. I’m not saying that there aren’t hoarders posing as rescuers and rescues, even No Kills, in the world, and they should and are rejected by legitimate rescuers and the No Kill philosophy for the scams that they are.

What I am saying is this: the number one cause of death for dogs and cats in America is shelter killing. It is the largest health risk a dog or cat faces. Hoarding doesn’t even make the list. To defend shelter killing using the slim risk of hoarding as a justification is nothing less than a lie.

This entry was posted in ASPCA, Cats, Dogs, New York City, No Kill, Shelter Stuff. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Daniela

    On the one hand I can understand where they are coming from. 2 years ago I took in a stray cat who promptly thanked me by giving birth in my spare bedroom. Nothing quite like coming home from work to discover that my cat population had doubled! As much as I wanted to I could keep them – it was just too many cats for me to handle. So I found them homes – and they are great homes! Excellent homes! It broke my heart to see them go but I am still in contact with the adopters and I see how happy they all are. The thought of any of those cats ending up in an abuse or hoarding situation just makes me want to vomit. I made sure to put in the adoption contract that they come back to me just to make sure something like that wouldn’t happen.

    But I think that way because i have a personal and meaningful connection to each of those cats. I was willing to keep them all (even if it wasn’t a good idea) if I couldn’t find a home that I was satisfied was a good one. I could afford to be extra picky – none of the cats were in any danger in my house – it was just that they wouldn’t get enough personal attention.

    I don’t think the kill shelters really think that way. If they had an actual fear that the animals would be mistreated they wouldn’t be keeping them in the horrible conditions they are in in the shelter. I think it is just rhetoric to justify not having to change their ways. A 2% risk of an abusive situation is much better then a 33% risk of being killed. I do feel for those 2% and I hope that eventually we will get to the point where that is 0%. And maybe shelter reform will help with that – once rescues and shelters are working together it will be harder for people to hide as a fake rescue.

  • Sammy Tulsa

    Murder no other way to describe it.
    ….killing shelter animals…it’s a shelter…hello!

  • But if we don’t HOARD, how are we supposed to make enough kitten fur coats to meet demand?

    P.S. Are those ones in the photo spoken for? It’s chilly here this morning.

  • linda em

    I don’t think animal hoarders go to shelters to adopt. I think they usually take in strays. If the shelters had a minimum price for adoption it would eliminate a lot of this.

  • Pingback: Amy Paulin Tries Desperately to Save Quiet Kill Bill | In Dog We Trust()

  • howard friedman m.d.

    We just finished this documentary on the Caboodle Ranch debacle. 700 cats taken form their lives. http://howieandsheila.com/video_caboodle.html

  • Annie Em

    There are more hoarders than you realize, and many levels of hoarder. The extreme and horrible cases are publicized, and so every hoarder is now branded and every hoarding case is a case of extreme cruelty. And the solution in NYC is to storm the offending residence, confiscate all of the animals, and kill them.

    This is why people are so afraid to come forward. Are their conditions ideal? No, of course not. But they are not the horror stories that one would believe based on the few that are shown. There are hoarders who take good care of their animals (or as good as they can) and don’t have dead cats in their freezers and under their beds. There are hoarders whose homes are not covered in feces and urine, and their cats are tame and friendly. These hoarders need help, but they are afraid to ask because the policy is to kill everything.

    The cat hoarders that I know of took in strays or rescued them from abusive situations, they did not adopt them from shelters.

    Something has to be done to help these people and these animals. There must be a better solution than what is currently offered. There has to be a way to organize volunteers to help with feeding, vetting, and cleaning while long-term solutions and forever homes are sought. I am not a hoarder, unless you think 5 cats is hoarding, but I know one hoarder and have learned about others.

    There is a complicated web that becomes more and more tangled as they hide and cower rather than reach out, as there is not enough real organized help or place to turn.

  • jbsibley

    See? It’s a huge problem because you know… one? How many pets die because of that fear?