Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chow-chow, chihuahuas seized from unsanitary conditions in Franklin County

Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter seized 1 chow-chow and 16 chihuahuas from two mobile home lots on Mickey Inn Road in Chambersburg,Pennsylvania. Buck Hessler, a humane society police officer for the shelter, told The Record Herald, "When I arrived, I found feces and urine covering both places and the dogs were infested with fleas. I was wearing a respirator."
Officer Hessler had initially visited the mobile home park regarding a sanitation complaint on Lot 19, where Sally Brown kept 11 chihuahuas and 1 chow-chow. Aware that Ms. Brown was sharing dogs with her friend Steven Knoll, Hessler decided to also check in on Knoll's residence on Lot 12 where he found 5 additional chihuahuas living in deplorable conditions. Both residences had been the subject of previous complaints which had resulted in Brown and Knoll receiving warnings..."  More

Sheriff: 44 animals seized from hoarder

Dozens of animals were seized from what appears to be a hoarding situation in Calhoun County. 

Calhoun County Sheriff's deputies went to the residence in the 2000 block of V. Drive South in Athens Township Tuesday morning. There, they found the residence "littered with feces" and in "deplorable condition," according to a release. 

35 cats, 8 dogs, and a bird were rescued from the residence with the help of Battle Creek Animal Control. 

Adult Protective Services is also involved in the investigation, the sheriff's office said..."  More

Scores of animals seized following complaints

By Lisa Rogers

Several dogs, cats and chickens and more than 100 birds were seized Tuesday afternoon at a house in East Gadsden after Gadsden’s animal control officers responded to a complaint. At least 28 birds of various breeds and three chickens were dead.

Someone complained about the smell of animal feces, which prompted animal control officers to go to the house on North Eighth Street, off Elmwood Avenue, Gadsden Police Lt. Paul Cody said.
There were 19 dogs and five cats and about 106 birds. At least 28 birds were dead. Three dead chickens and one live chicken were found in the basement.
The live birds were parakeets, button quail, quaker, cockatiels and an Alexandria.
The smell of animal feces could be detected from the street. Eight almost hairless Schnauzers, apparently infected with mange, were huddled in the corner of a fenced, open carport-type area behind the house. Large amounts of dog feces were piled on the concrete floor.
Another nearby cage had Dachshunds and an unknown dog breed, also covered with feces, and a water tub full of maggots..."  More & photos

Spindletop Refuge - Texas

For updates join the Montgomery county Texas Canine Seizure page:  here

Questions swirling around Spindletop

By: John Woestendiek

At least 38 dogs entrusted to a Texas pit bull refuge whose mission was to provide them with care and find them new homes never came out, perishing instead from heat stroke, and being buried in a mass grave on the ranch.

Not too much news has been coming out of Spindletop Refuge in Willis, either.
Since authorities last week seized nearly 300 dogs, mostly pit bulls, and removed them from conditions generally described as cramped and unhealthy, there have been a lot more questions than answers.
On Friday, after hours of private negotiations, Spindletop owner Leah Purcell  agreed to relinquish ownership of the 287 dogs, and through her attorney, she agreed to terms prohibiting her from future rescue and boarding in the county.
That court action was related strictly to the custody of the dogs. No charges have yet been filed against Purcell, and there has been no clear word that they will be.
Instead, there are a heap of questions unanswered — most of them from rescue groups around the country that sent animals to Spindletop, and now want to find out if they’re still alive, and reclaim them if they are.
On top of that, there’s another all-important one — what led what was once such a highly respected refuge to end up keeping dogs in conditions more like those you’d find at a puppy mill or the home of a hoarder?
Members of at least  50 rescue groups attended a Friday custody hearing in Conroe, but it was behind closed doors that an agreement was reached between prosecutors and Purcell. Except for 11 dogs that belonged to her mother, she surrendered the rest, and custody was awarded to the Humane Society of the United States and Montgomery County.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that a grand jury, also meeting behind closed doors, will decide whether Purcell will face criminal charges.
According to the Houston Press, several rescuers learned Friday then that the dogs they had surrendered to Spindletop — and were told had been adopted — died of heat stroke last summer.
“It was definitely not a sanctuary. Definitely not. Those dogs were left in a living hell,” said former Spindletop employee Brandon Louth, who says he’s the one who contacted authorities about conditions at the refuge.
Of the mass death he said, ”The dogs had suffocated, because the building was not ventilated. The electricity had gone off in the building, and basically I had to bury the dogs, put the dogs in sacks and dig a mass grave for them.”
Officials are still working to catalog all the rescued dogs, and were putting together a website where they’ll be posting photos of all of the dogs. The Animal Farm Foundation, which is helping coordinate the effort, said this week on its Facebook page that approximately 40 dogs have been claimed and returned to owners or places of origin, or will be in the next few days.
They advise those seeking dogs that were in Spindletop’s care to:
“If you have not already done so, please send extremely detailed information about dogs you wish to reclaim to info@animalfarmfoundation.org and to Constable Tim Holifield at tim.holifield@mctx.org . Include a phone number and an email address. Put the word SPINDLETOP in the subject line. Animal Farm Foundation is coordinating the communication with owners and places of origin and schedules appointments for reclaiming dogs.”
At Friday’s court hearing, Montgomery County Constable Tim Holifield assured the crowd that the animals were being well cared for and that the Humane Society of the United States, which assisted in the Spindletop seizure, is committed to not euthanizing any of the dogs..."  More

July 23, 2012:  A Rescue in Name Only: Nearly 500 Dogs Rescued from Dire Circumstances Last Week click: here


Constable Hollifield who is over Montgomery County Animal Control assisted by Precinct 4 Constables, Precinct 1 Constables, Harris County Precinct 6 Constables and the United State Humane Society earlier Tuesday served a search warrant on a Dog Rescue on Calvary Road in North Montgomery County.

After meeting with the owner and checking the property it was determined that over three hundred dogs needed to be seized. due to conditions they were living in. Almost all of the dogs which many are Pit Bulls are in small crates and cages, all sleeping in urine and feces. Vets are on the scene supervising the removal from at least five buildings on the property. One of those buildings, a two story home houses almost eighty dogs.

The dogs are going to be taken to an undisclosed location to be evaluated by vets and then a determination will be made from there as what will happen to the dogs. They are hoping most can be adopted out across the nation...."  More & video (skip ahead to the 20min mark for interviews)

From the "Animal Farm Foundation" Facebook page:

Animal Farm Foundation is assisting with the alleged hoarding case at Spindletop Refuge in Montgomery County, Texas. The property was raided yesterday and conditions for the 300+ dogs kept there were determined to be unsafe, despite the ref...uge's efforts to adequately provide for the dogs' health, well-being, and basic necessities.

Right now local authorities in Texas are working alongside the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and veterinarians to remove each dog from the property, transfer them to a safe location, and provide the emergency medical attention that many of them desperately needed.

We share HSUS's goal of ensuring the best possible outcome for each of the dogs, and we're grateful that HSUS stepped up to oversee a humane and just outcome for all of these dogs. Once the dogs have been triaged at an undisclosed safe location, Animal Farm Foundation will work with HSUS to individually evaluate each dog for rescue or adoption placement.

We understand that many individuals, shelters, and rescue groups have transferred dogs to Spindletop Refuge and will want to know the status of those dogs and learn how to retrieve them, if possible. Animal Farm Foundation will be coordinating those efforts and will make that information available as soon as possible. A court hearing will take place soon, at which point we expect to have more details. You can also contact us any time at info@animalfarmfoundation.org.

If you are interested in opening up your agency or rescue to any of these dogs or if you are looking for a dog who was sent to Spindletop Refuge please contact us at info@animalfarmfoundation.org. The dogs are depending on all of us to be their voice, so thank you to all the groups who are collaborating to ensure the best possible outcome for all involved.

Monday, July 30, 2012

When does a rescuer become a hoarder?

By Shiela Rabe

So, when is enough enough?? When we started down this road to develop a means of controlling stray animal proliferation in the Cando area we had the best intentions. Trap feral cats, spay/neuter and vaccinate and attempt to rehabilitate them into feline good citizens, in other words, house cats.Or, if that wasn't achievable, at least find a good farm home where these cats could live in a barn and earn their keep as rodent controllers. Then of course there were also stray dogs, abandoned and wandering the streets and countryside. The Uffda Fund has been challenged numerous times to provide happy solutions for some very emotionally and physically damaged  cats and dogs. With over 200 pets and counting I can recall only two occasions when an animal was too far gone to save and the kindest solution was euthanasia. We have otherwise been fortunate in finding supportive temporary placements and compassionate adopters for  pets that perhaps would be unclaimed in many shelters.
There is a fine line between rescuing and hoarding and its pretty easy for people who have big hearts to cross that line. How can one refuse to take in another cat when the threat is uttered ""Well, if you won't take Spot Iam going to shoot him."  We have heard versions of that threat too many times. That's how some of us end up with a dozen or more animals to house, feed, provide vet care and love. It's hard to say no when someone is threatening to destroy a  dog or cat, so why not take on one more. Then suddenly the population starts to grow. One important difference between being an animal rescuer and morphing into an animal hoarder is this: the basic tenet of rescue is spay/neuter; the critters in a rescue home do not reproduce themselves..."  More 

Animal Hoarding; The Lack of Laws and Sad Truth

by:  Erin the Organizer
I took a class in the legal aspects of hoarding. Part of the class was about animal hoarding. I was shocked and sad to learn that only two states have laws dealing with this horrible situation.
I also learned that hoarders are responsible for the cause of more suffering, and death among animals then actual animal abusers. Heartbreaking!!
Illinois has the Humane Care for Animals Act. Governor Ryan signed it in 2001. A person that cannot provide for a large number of animals (food, health care, clean conditions, and protection) can be convicted of a class 4 felony.
Hawaii actually has a law to outlaw animal hoarding. In 2008, Hawaii passed Bill 3203, making animal hoarding a misdemeanor. You are not allowed to own more than 15 animals(cats, dogs, or a combination of both). The flaw with this law is that it doesn't mandate  psychological counseling or prohibit people from future animal ownership.
I have never worked with an animal hoarder. As an animal lover and owner, I don't think I could handle it. I have worked in plenty of homes which have been hoarded that have owned animals. It breaks my heart to see them in those conditions. One cat used to sit on my lap everytime I was working with it's owner. How I wanted to take him home with me. At another job, the litter box was never changed, so the cats chose to use the bathroom in the corners of the basement. I was literally shoveling shovels full of feces in the trash. I also pulled up the carpet.
While animals provide us with unconditional love, they also need our love and care. They need to be taken care of, properly fed, and socialized. Both my crazy cats are rescues. Tyler, came to me 9 years ago from an older lady who could no longer take care of him. She was too ill. He obviously had been table fed(I never met a cat that begs for asparagus). He drives me crazy with his gourmet palet and begging for food, but I am happy he likes my cooking!
I personally think every state should have stricter laws to protect animals..."  More

Morgantown Creates Hoarder Task Force

By Stacy Moniot

Morgantown is the first city in the state to create a hoarding task force. It brings community, public safety and government officials together to curb the public safety hazard they pose.
.."You can have a lot of issues with rodents, with pests," said Tammy Michael, the Morgantown Code Enforcement Officer who will lead the new task force. "You can have it even go into mold, mildew which for a lot of elderly people can be health-threatening."
Police and fire are also involved.
"Fire occurring in structures like that, they're deep-seated, they're hard to put out," said Morgantown Fire Chief Mark Caravassos. "How are you able to get all this stuff out to put the fire out?"
Even though it's a safety hazard, hoarding is not illegal. The city created the task force as a way to curb what code officers like Michael are seeing more and more.
"We actually had three or four in the last month or two come into play and that's probably a very small amount to what's out there," Michael said.
One of the main goals is to identify hoarder homes, so that emergency services know what they're getting into when they're called out..."  More

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Uncovering the truth behind animal hoarding

by Dara Newson

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hoarder Sentenced; Must Undergo Mental Health Evaluation

By Michelle Alvarez

Ann Arnold, the Greenfield, New York woman convicted of 19 counts of failing to provide food, shelter and vet care to her horses (14 of whom were rescued by CAS in October 2011), was sentenced last week. Greenfield Judge Michael Ginley, who had stated that “…any non-horse person could plainly see that most of these horses were literally ‘skin and bones’ and critically undernourished,” ordered Arnold to give up her remaining horses within 60 days, prohibited her from owning horses for 3 years, and imposed a $500 fine and $7,000 in restitution to the SPCA of Upstate NY. Perhaps most importantly, Judge Ginley required Arnold to undergo a mental health evaluation to determine whether she has an obsessive compulsive disorder related to the “hoarding of animals.”
CAS applauds Judge Ginley for taking action to help ensure that no horses will suffer at Arnold’s hands. Hoarders are sometimes perceived as caring people trying to alleviate the homeless animal crisis. In reality, however, many suffer from extreme mental illness that leads them to “collect” animals without regard for the animals’ safety and well-being, often resulting in tragic consequences.
In our eleven year history, while CAS has rescued animals from a wide range of cruelty situations, well over half have come from hoarding situations. You likely know many of these past and current residents, including Rambo the sheepNadine and Peggy Sue the pigs, Atlas the goat,Declan the turkey, and the 14 horses we rescued from Arnold. Thankfully, the horses have fully recovered, except for gentle Timothy who passed away suddenly. However, these few were fortunate to have received a second chance — most animals endure starvation, dehydration, extreme filth and overcrowding, illness and untreated injuries at the hands of hoarders. Each year, thousands die..."  More

Animal hoarding: A serious problem for both animals and people

Animal hoarding has become a more common theme in the news in recent years, and often it appears that by the time the police are able to investigate, many animals are dead or dying, and most, if not all, are sick. Animal hoarders are often charged with animal cruelty and their living animals confiscated, usually going to shelters and rescuers who try to nurse them back to health.
Earlier this month, police were called to the home of a couple in west suburban Berwyn, originally due to a fire in the backyard that was producing a bad odor, and about a girl at the house. However, they had to leave and come back twice more before they were allowed in the house. More than 60 cats were found, along with many other items such as furniture, and the house smelled strongly of cat urine and feces.
The couple, Photini Varkonyi and Eric Jandt, told the police that they knew their house was in terrible condition and were overwhelmed with the conditions, and that they knew things had gotten out of control.
Varkonyi was primarily responsible for bringing the cats home as she wanted to start a shelter for them out of the house. She ultimately told the police that so many cats was overwhelming for her and she became depressed and gave up.
Also earlier this month, 21 Persian cats were taken from the home of hoarders in north suburban Highland Park. The cats were badly neglected and suffered from malnutrition. It was Kelly Moyer, the founder of the Tails of Hope animal rescue group in Gurnee, who contacted the authorities after visiting the home of Jorjic and Agnes Badalpour.
The cats were living in the garage, and the couple contacted the rescue group after realizing that the smell and condition of the garage could hinder their ability to sell their home. The cats’ fur was matted, they had serious flea infestations and were badly underweight. Three of the cats died while being treated at animal hospitals in other villages.
These stories, along with television shows like “Hoarders,” are drawing awareness to the issue of hoarding, but what exactly is it? According to Hartford Hospital, compulsive hoarding is a problem that often accompanies other mental disorders, including depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and certain anxiety disorders, among others. Hoarding is thought to be a subset of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Animal hoarding is among the most tragic types of hoarding because the animals are so frequently neglected, sick, and even dying. The condition of the dwelling they’re found in is usually filthy, with feces and urine everywhere, which contributes to the poor condition of the animals.
In a letter published by the “Concord Monitor” on July 12, 2012, Barbara Bonsignore wrote that animal hoarding can be precipitated by a major life-changing event that causes people to turn to animals for comfort. They often take in animals with every intention of caring for them, but get to a point where they can no longer afford it or keep up. They also can’t willingly give up their animals. She makes a plea for help for these animals, and for interventions when people suspect someone of hoarding animals.
There is no cure for hoarding, however treatment includes cognitive therapy and medication; typically the same medications that are used to treat OCD. Cognitive therapy generally addresses the thoughts and feelings that cause the hoarding, and aims to change certain thought patterns and behaviors. However, nothing can happen without someone first intervening.
Hoarders have a serious psychological problem and need help. They don’t intend for their situations to get so out of control and they usually start with the best of intentions towards their animals. After they become overwhelmed, they find they can’t stop, and they often don’t know what to do, so things continue to deteriorate...."  More

198 cats and three dog seized from a home

By Dedrick Russell

It was a discovery Iredell County Animal Control officers will never forget. They received a tip Angie Funderburk of Mooresville was hoarding animals.
Agents got a search warrant and found 198 cats and three dogs living in one home.
"Some have ringworm," Iredell County Animal Shelter Director Chris Royal said. "The smell of ammonia would knock you over. Officers had to keep coming out every 10 minutes while we were trying to catch the cats, just to get a breath of fresh air because the ammonia was burning our lungs and noses."
Animal Shelter tells me charges are now pending for Funderburk. The charge could be cruelty to animals.
"Just like any other hoarder," Royal said. "She says the animals were fine. She took care of her animals, that's what they all say. It's sad."
Neighbors say they were shocked at the news.
"198," Neighbor Shenee Wasmund said. "Oh my God, that's a lot of cats. That's crazy."
15 of the 198 cats will be put down. The county animal shelter has reached out to animal rescue shelters looking for some to take the cats, but those shelters are full.
Funderburk is used to animal control coming to her house. They came in May. They found 23 cats and the house was clean. Months later conditions got bad..."  More

Denise Withee - Nebraska

July 26, 2012:  Convicted dog abuser gets nine years probation

By Sarah Schulz

A convicted animal abuser who had her original probation revoked for violating a judge’s order not to live with dogs has been sentenced to a new, nine-year term of probation.
Denise K. Withee, 49, of Mapleton, Iowa, was convicted by a jury in July 2009 of three counts of felony cruel neglect of animals. She was sentenced by Hall County District Judge William Wright to four years of probation, and was ordered not to own, possess or reside with animals for five years.
On Jan. 12, authorities found 13 dogs in the Iowa home she shared with her mother. She returned to Hall County in March to spend time in jail for the violation and Wright ordered her to the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York for a 90-day diagnostic evaluation.
On Thursday, Withee appeared in court to be resentenced due to the revocation of her original probation.
“We’re going to start over with something,” Wright said.
Withee’s attorney, Deputy Hall County Public Defender Vicki Kenney, asked for consecutive terms of probation in the interest of helping her client and protecting animals. Consecutive terms would allow additional time for the court to supervise Withee. If she is sentenced to prison, she would likely be paroled quickly due to having already served 132 days behind bars and having a minimal criminal history, Kenney said.
“What she needs is supervision and psychological help,” she said.
Kenney said the evaluation done in York didn’t address animal hoarding specifically. Having done some research of her own, she said her client fits the description of an animal hoarder. She is someone who keeps a lot of animals and can’t see that she isn’t properly caring for them. Withee has severe depression and has soothed herself by owning animals that will give her unconditional love. Kenney compared the animal hoarding to a drug addict or an alcoholic taking more of a substance to reach a high...."  More

Apr 26, 2012:  Convicted Dog Hoarder Sent to Prison... For Now

By Steve White

A convicted dog hoarder has been sent to jail by a judge, who saved his most scathing remarks for a prison system he says is not qualified to help her.
For leaving two dozen dogs to die and then violating probation by hoarding more, Denise Withee is going to prison,  but she will be there only 90 days.
Judge William Wright issued a strict order to the women's prison in York, telling them to get to the bottom of Withee's obsession and then he will make a final decision.
Wright expressed frustration with a report prepared by probation officers, pointing to the lack of information about Withee's apparent animal obsession.
"God knows why it's not in the medical records," Wright remarked, his hands to his head.
Wright said it was apparent Withee self-medicated her depression by surrounding herself with animals.
Withee has been on several prescriptions, including paxil, zoloft, prozac, prilosec, blood pressure medication, and has received electroshock therapy.
Wright agree Withee had severe mental problems, but did not qualify for the insanity defense.
He said he could not fashion a probation that protected society and more importantly pets. In a perfect world, the judge said Withee would be placed in an institution.
He condemned the state for eliminating institutions in favor of community based services that he said were under funded.
Wright said he was "left to figure what the devil to do." Probation would leave risks to society, while prison was not equipped to deal with mental illness.
Wright opted for what he called the "third option", sending Withee to prison for 90 days for extensive testing. Wright said his order would force the state to assist with an evaluation specific to her animal hoarding.
After that time, wright said he would make a final determination.
Humane Society officials were pleased with the order, saying it showed the judge was trying to address the root of the problem.
Withee was arrested in 2008 for dumping two dozen dead and dying dogs in a field near Grand Island. She was convicted in 2009 and placed on probation, with the condition she not own animals. But she was recently found with 8 - 13 dogs at her Sioux City area home. Officials said the dogs were in cages and crates and were using a garage as a "litter box."
Knowing she would likely have her probation revoked, Withee checked into a mental hospital for 60 days and then turned herself in to jail, where she has sat since then.
She was scheduled to be re-sentenced, but the judge's order delays final sentencing for 90 days..."  Link & video

Sept 25, 2009:  Convicted Dog Abuser Sentenced to Probation

A dog-dumping Iowa woman is free to go. Denise Withee will not serve time in jail, as a judge sentences her to probation with strings attached.
Denise Withee walked out of court a free woman, with no handcuffs and no jail sentence. That disappointed Humane Society officials who had been involved in the case since they first got a call about 23 dead and dying dogs left in a field.
Central Nebraska Humane Society Executive Director Laurie Dethloff said, "We're disappointed. I don't know what we really expected but with having dealt with the aftermath of it we would've liked to see jail time."
Withee's sentence comes with a lengthy list of conditions. The judge told Withee the key to avoid jail is to not have dogs. Judge William Wright ordered her not to own, posses, or reside with an animal or pet of any kind for the next five years. To make sure she complies, the judge said jail is a possibility, one he will "hold over your head for four years."..." More & video

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eric Jandt / Photini Varkonyi - Illinois

July 26, 2012:  A look inside the home of Berwyn’s latest animal hoarding case

The residents of another hoarding house in Berwyn made a cry for help before they were charged with putting their 17-year-old daughter’s life in danger.
In signed statements to detectives, homeowners Eric Jandt, 41, and Photini Varkonyi, 50, said they knew their house was in terrible condition, but felt powerless to stop it.
“I have always been worried this day was going to happen ... .,” Jandt wrote. “The problem is that my house has gotten so bad that every time I began a project or attempted to clean, nothing has been accomplished.”
According to a Freedom of Information Act request, police records dating back two years show no calls to their home in the 3100 block of East Avenue prior to the July 9 discovery that their house was overrun with animals and squalid living conditions..."  More

July 9, 2012:  Authorities Remove 33 Cats, 3 Dogs From Berwyn Home

Authorities removed 33 cats and three dogs from a Berwyn home Monday after investigating a complaint from a tipster.
The residence at 31st and East previously had fallen afoul of city codes for its unkempt exterior, Fire Chief Denis O’Halloran told reporters. After officials were granted access inside Monday, they found “deplorable conditions” that included signs of animal hoarding and pet feces. Police tape cordoned off the property Monday.
The occupants were a man and woman in their 40s and a female juvenile. The home will need to be cleaned before it can be occupied, O’Halloran said.

“Our first concern was for the juvenile in the building,” the fire chief said.
The animals were in good condition and were taken to an animal shelter in Cicero..."  More & video