This past month, we rescued 25 cats that had been living together in a trailer. The cats were sick, dehydrated and emaciated. But the setting was typical: garbage, boxes of useless junk, broken furniture from the floor to the ceiling. The owner of the trailer had abandoned the property and the animals.
This was just one of many hoarding cases we handled this past year. In fact, hoarding is the single largest source of the neglected animals—mostly cats–that enter our doors. And in some ways, it is the most heart-breaking, because the owners do not intend to do harm. Hoarding often starts from the best of intentions: “Animals need homes. I have a home that I can give them.” But animals need care and attention too–and their maintenance requires money. If one doesn’t have the space or resources to house animals in a healthy way, one is not doing them any favors. Hoarding also happens when owners don’t fix their animals. In a case we dealt with last year, we found dead kittens that had crawled into and gotten stuck in the walls of a person’s home, along with a number of adolescent cats that were already pregnant. She had started out with two cats and ended up overwhelmed with over 70 in just two years.
Hoarding is not the same as feral cat colony management. Hoarding is the collecting indoors of house cats, not feral cats, in unhealthy conditions. Colony management is the controlling of feral cat populations through trap-neuter-return, and the supervision of their feeding and outdoor accommodation. Hoarded cats can be re-homed; feral cats are generally not adoptable.
It may not be something we enjoy thinking about, but hoarding is a recognized illness, and when it involves animals, it becomes a matter of humane law. DCSPCA is not interested in how many animals any resident of the county has as long as it is within the guidelines of your municipality; DCSPCA is only concerned that all animals receive adequate care and attention. If you suspect hoarding anywhere near you, please call our humane law department at 845-452-7722 x431. We will investigate and if necessary, remove animals from unsafe environments, provide them with all the care they need to regain health, and find them safe and loving homes.