Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Animal Rescue

By D'Lyn Ford

Animal Hoarding Increasing

"...“Puppy mill operations have been around for years, but animal hoarding seems to be on the increase in North Carolina,” Ferris says. “My colleagues nationally report that it’s increasing as well.”

Sometimes, investigations involve a breeding operation. That was what Ferris encountered in her first case in 1982 for the American Spaniel Club. When a member died, 80 dogs were found on her property. “All you would see were the beautiful dogs at the show, but here were 60 dogs matted to the skin in a hay barn with no running water.”

Ferris has seen a hoarder whose house was overflowing with black cats as well as a hoarder who had animals ranging from pocket pets to livestock.

“The advent of no-kill sheltering gives someone who is hoarding animals a way to try to gain respectability,” Ferris says. “Instead of being ‘the crazy cat lady,’ someone can position themselves as a shelter with a Web page and nonprofit status.”

However, many hoarders with large numbers of animals live in conditions that are unsafe for humans and animals. In the course of investigations, Ferris has endured ammonia fumes from decaying animal waste piled on the floor. She documents the conditions of both animals and their living spaces, using clinical terms and descriptions that she can use in court.

Ferris recalls a conversation with a man accused of animal hoarding who had recently moved to North Carolina. “He suggested that people were unfriendly to him because he was a Yankee,” Ferris recalls. “I said to him, ‘Maybe it’s not that people don’t like you because you’re a Yankee. Maybe it’s that you’re covered in urine and feces.’”

“He said to me, ‘Your reality is different from my reality but that doesn’t make it wrong.’ I said, ‘Well, it makes it illegal.’”

All but the most severe animal cruelty cases are misdemeanors. Jail time is typically suspended unless there’s another offense. Some counties have stricter penalties than the state, but animal advocates are trying to change that..." More