On Dec. 29, spent nearly 12 hours removing about 50 living, dead animals from home
The case of a Mount Vernon woman who was charged last week with animal cruelty and animal hoarding illustrates the complexity of what is involved in removing more than 50 animals, both live and dead, from a residence.
On Dec. 22, an anonymous caller contacted authorities about seeing rats on residential property. One week later, on Dec. 29, Animal Control officers charged Megan Barber, 33, with animal cruelty and animal hoarding after spending nearly 12 hours removing over two dozen live cats, five dogs, a rabbit, three guinea pigs, a hamster, nine birds and 28 assorted dead animals from the single-family home located on the 3400 block of Ramsgate Terrace.
"There were rooms that could not be entered," said Fairfax County Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell, who added that cluttered conditions including animal feces and debris made evacuating animals from the home difficult.
Officials said the initial medical conditions of the living animals ranged from poor to good, with most appearing unclean and malnourished. All animals were transported to local veterinarians to undergo health checks.
"The definition of hoarding is having so many things within a residence that you create a hazard to yourself and others," said former Fairfax County Hoarding Task Force Chairman John Yetman. "Animal hoarding becomes obvious when there are so many animals that an occupant cannot possibly take proper care of them all."
"What is interesting is that while there are county zoning restrictions on the number of dogs that can be kept in a residence, there is no enforceable limit for cats," Caldwell said.
"Animal cruelty charges can come into play if animals are not being properly cared for," Yetman said. "If the cats or other animals are not getting their shots, or proper food and water, that can do it."
Yetman added that some animal cruelty charges can be considered a felony and that a conviction can ban an individual from ever legally owning pets in the future.
"A case such as this recent one also incurs costs across all county agencies," he said.
The hoarding task force generally involves animal control officers, zoning officials, the county fire marshal, and can involve Child Protective Services as well as several other county agencies, according to Yetman.
Caldwell said that the county sees "several" such cases a year and that they generally rack up overtime hours for those involved, although she did not estimate overall costs involved..." More