Groups like the Animal Rescue Corps step in to help through direct action in situations where animals are suffering or in danger. Coordinating with local and regional animal shelters and animal welfare agencies, they can make a real, life-saving difference to protect animals.
When it comes to pets, how many is “too many”? The answer to that question often depends on the situation. I have a friend who has more than 20 animals, but then she has a farm. I have friends who had a dozen cats in a two-bedroom apartment, although some were fosters, waiting for adoption.
Then there are people who become what are called “animal hoarders”. Often they believe they are helping the animals, or “saving” them, while they seem unable to recognize that the animals are actually suffering in their care.
Last week, a local sheriff’s department, working with Animal Rescue Corps, responded to a complaint in a Henry County, Tennessee, home that has to be one of the worst cases of animal hoarding ever. More than seven hundred animals were rescued, including sixty-five dogs, three cats, eight snakes, ten rabbits and 545 rodents. The real shocker was finding an eighteen-month-old human toddler in a cage in the living room of the trailer on the property. Three people were arrested, including the toddler’s mother. The baby was taken to Child Protective Services.
While most cases of animal hoarding are not so severe, they can still be serious situations. Images of the “crazy cat lady” come to mind, but animal hoarders can be male or female and almost any age – or race – or ethnic group.
Often, an animal hoarder thinks he or she is helping just one more, so it won’t go hungry, or so it won't go to the shelter. At some point, the human caretaker cannot adequately care for all the rescued animals in the home, but they cannot resist taking in additional pets in need.
Just because someone has several animals, that doesn’t mean they are an animal hoarder. But - if you suspect someone has more animals than they can properly care for, talk to them – offer to help care for the animals - and if necessary, contact a local animal welfare organization, or veterinarian, or even local law enforcement. Sometimes the responsibility falls on us to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, when we’re speaking of pets.