Sunday, August 14, 2011

Largest National Case of Animal Hoarding Highlights Problem

(see story, pics & video regarding this commentary: here

Kimberly Morgan

COMMENTARY | Vets at the University of Florida, who have been caring for approximately just under 700 cats seized by authorities in early June, now say nearly all of the animals are ready for adoption -- a massive undertaking from the moment they were rescued, spayed and neutered, treated for infection and disease, and housed in a warehouse, where they waited until Alachua County animal services made room for them, reports the Gainesville Sun. This case is the single largest case of animal hoarding on record in the country.

That those doing the cat collecting label the place a "sanctuary" only thinly disguises its actual purpose: to provide a sick person the excuse to collect hundreds of animals, most of whom needed - and did not get - adequate nutrition or healthcare.

Such is the case with many "rescues" and "havens" and "centers" which simply provide a sick person with the excuse to validate their mental illness.

While it's true that many legitimate rescue organizations exist, and do much good for the unwanted and homeless animals in our country, many others exist because they afford a hoarders a good cover.

Kill them With Kindness

Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President, calls it like he sees it. "Historically, a person who collected animals was viewed as an animal lover who got in over his or her head, but the truth is that people who hoard are experiencing a total loss of insight," says Lockwood. The person doing the collecting doesn't see their sickness, or the abuse. In their minds, other people abuse animals, and they rescue them.

Instead, many homeless animals get a prison in which the warden is completely blind to the suffering they're causing. Too many animals end up in the hands of Florida hoarders and "shelters" - only to suffer at their hands.

If there aren't homes for them, and if there's no place for them, it's better for them to be humanelyeuthanized than to starve, or to be eaten alive by ticks and fleas, left to sleep in their own feces.

Too Legit to Quit? Look Closely.

According to the ASPCA site, many hoarders set themselves up with non-for-profit status.

Such was the case with Haven Acres, which, according to their website, was home to "200 cats, a dog, several horses, and some roosters." Oh, and they were granted 501(c)(3) status in 2005.

How did it turn from a noble gesture to the largest case of hoarding in U.S. history? Things got a little out of hand. It probably happened because, as Haven Acres says on its website, "Since its inception, no cat that has needed help has been turned away."

That, and there's a big difference between 200 and 700 cats.

Why? According to the website, the owners were "concerned about the high euthanasia rate at Animal Services." Sound familiar? This is the facility currently housing the seized cats. One wonders how they were able to make room to accommodate those additional 600 cats. lists around 60 cat rescue groups for Florida alone.

So, how do you know when someone has crossed the line from loving animal rescuer to someone requiring the intervention of authorities?

The Tufts University Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium put it best: "Any legitimate shelter, rescue or sanctuary puts the needs of the animals first, recognizes when capacity to provide care is exceeded, and takes the required steps (stopping intake, increasing adoption, increasing staff or resources) in order to provide proper care."

Florida needs to support those shelters that offer legitimate shelter and succor to homeless animals. Pet owners need to look more closely at those organizations to which they give their money - and to those animals for which they can no longer care.

The adoption of the nearly 600 cats seized in this single case will be available for adoption August 26-18. Hoarders need not apply..." Link

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