Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ALDF: Animal Hoarding Case Study: Vikki Kittles

Vikki Rene Kittles, also known as Susan Dietrich, Rene Depenbrock, and Lynn Zellan, has a history of animal hoardingthat goes back decades and spans the United States from the Southeast to the Northwest. She has effectively evaded prosecution and conviction on many occasions by so thoroughly frustrating authorities that they are eager to dismiss her case in exchange for her leaving the jurisdiction. In at least one county, exasperated authorities even gave Kittles money for a tank of gas to leave the jurisdiction.

In 1993, after being run out of several states, serial animal hoarder Vikki Kittles was keeping 116 dogs, all sick and some dying, in an old school bus in Oregon, where District Attorney Joshua Marquis and the Animal Legal Defense Fund were determined not to let her get away again.

Vikki Kittles is representative of exploitive hoarders, as defined by the
Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC):

  • Most difficult or problematic type to deal with
  • Acquires animals purely to serve own needs
  • Tends to have sociopathic characteristics and/or personality disorder
  • Lacks empathy for people or animals; indifferent to the harm caused to animals or people
  • Tends toward extreme denial of the situation
  • Rejects authority or any outsider’s legitimate concern over animal care
  • Believes his/her knowledge is superior to all others’; adopts the role of expert with extreme need to control
  • Has superficial charm and charisma – very articulate, skilled in crafting excuses and explanations, and capable of presenting an appearance that conveys believability and competence to officials, the public, and the media
  • Is manipulative and cunning
  • Is self-concerned and narcissistic
  • Lacks guilt, remorse or social conscience
  • Acquires animals actively rather than passively
  • Demonstrates predatory behavior – will lie, cheat, steal without remorse and potentially has a plan to use these tools to achieve own ends
  • Plans to evade the law and beat the system
Kittles has been particularly exceptional in her ability to manipulate good Samaritans, unsuspecting veterinarians, and the legal system.

To read about laws and legal issues involved with animal neglect and hoarding, see ALDF’s
Animal Neglect Facts and Animal Hoarding Facts.

Florida, Mississippi, Colorado, Washington

1985 – In Broward County, Florida, Vikki Kittles’ neighbors had complained of stench and noise coming from animals at her house. She was charged with aggravated assault for pointing a gun at a neighbor whom she accused of harboring her missing dog. When neighbors gave a sworn statement that they had seen Kittles punch one dog and throw another against a wall, authorities went to the home and discovered 35 dogs, three cats and two horses living inside the home with Kittles and her 73-year-old mother, Jean Sullivan. Kittles explained the horses were inside to prevent them from being poisoned by the enemy. She was charged with cruelty to animals and violation of a local ordinance for keeping horses in a residential area. She fled before the trial, leaving in a trailer with the animals and her mother..." More