What is “Hoarding”?

Well for starters is is not a TV show or a sensationalized form of mental illness. There is not even a true definition of it in any of the mental health guidelines.

In my work I have found many different types of situations: Some I would define as hoarding some I would not. Every person & situation is unique. I have seen people with 50 dogs doing just fine & I myself get overwhelmed with any more than 5 dogs.

There are a lot of considerations to further add to the confusion.

1) My 1 key to determining if I am in a hoarder situation is the level of care the animals are receiving (or not receiving)

2) The next is the person's outlook on the situation. If a dog has a broken leg & the person can not acknowledge that the dog needs care, or thinks that they are the only one who can care for the animal then there is a problem.

3) If the animals don't receive regular vet care because the person realizes they can't take 25 animals to the vet without raising some suspicion, there is a problem.

4) If the person continues to take in more & more animals knowing they don't have the money or resources to care for them that is a big red flag, (but I have also just described just about every single rescuer I know including myself )

5) If the person hides the animals from family or friends & becomes more & more reclusive & cuts themselves off from family, family needs to get involved.

6) The worst is the cleanliness factor, when someone is not cleaning up waste & letting their animals destroy their homes

On the other hand I have been called to situations where it seemed like we had all of the above going on & when I get there, it was something totally different, here are some examples

STORY: I got a call from a family that their mother was hoarding cats & never changed her cat box, & she was cutting herself off from the family.

TRUTH: The mother did in fact have 9 cats, all were fixed, all were strays, all up to date with vetting, & yes she only changed the cat box every 3 to 4 days, because the cats were indoor/outdoor cats & because she couldn't afford the litter because the daughter who called me: the mother was busy paying off her student loans & her daughter's daycare for 3 her children, she was spending over 4K a month taking care of her grown immoral daughter. We went & changed her bank account, told her daughter that there had been a protective payee assigned so that she wasn't able to write her anymore checks, & I am glad to report that she put her cats in boarding in January & went on a month long cruise with all of the extra money she has.

STORY: I got a call from a breeder, she had recently got laid off & lost the resources to care for her 40+ dogs, she had no one she felt she could call & as a result those dogs spent 3 days without food. I loaded up 150lbs of food, we fed them, got her some more food, & sat down together & worked out a plan, we got most of the dogs out to rescues in another state because most of my experience with rescues in this state is that they like to think they are better than anyone else & take great delight in starting problems for other people. We got her down to 23 dogs, then I took 2 pregnant mothers & we discovered that both had a uterine infection that effectively put an end to her breeding program, so we decided to have them all fixed & get them all homes. She kept her two girls, sold her house bought an RV & is traveling the country.

STORY: I got a call from a guy who wanted me to come & get a dog, he said he had too many & he thought that the one might need a vet. I got there & there were 6 dogs, all were injured, the dog I picked up was missing most of it's tail, had an ingrown collar & the others were in horrid shape, I knew the Sheriff in the area so I went to him to see if he knew anything about the man, he did, he was married to the man's daughter. So we both went back & made a plan with the man, he got to keep two dogs, had to pay to get the rest vetted ( he had the money just didn't want to spend it) & his son in law checks up on him every couple of weeks. The interesting thing is that the family lives in the same small town, yet they hadn't seen the dad in 11 months now they are having family get togethers & day trips.

STORY: I got a call about a crazy old man from a local vet that there were animals on his property with homemade casts, & they had obvious injuries. I get there & find out that this man is a retired vet, & I have made many central Washington stops to his house in the middle of the night for emergencies!!! The vet KNEW he was a vet, but he was miffed that the old man wouldn't come to him to treat the animals, or come & work part time for him. He was the towns vet for years & didn't like the new “snot nosed kid” & he wasn't going to ruin his reputation consorting with the likes of him!

STORY: I got a call about a lady who was hoarding animals, that there was feces up her walls, & there was no food or water for any of the animals & they suspected that the dogs were eating each other. I got there & found out it was a rescuer, who was like me when I started, she took on too much & was overwhelmed, I knocked at the door & explained why I was there & she threw her arms around me & sobbed for an hour straight. There was not poop on the walls & she had crappy food for them, but she had an incontinent group of dogs who thrashed her carpet, so we rolled up our sleeves, ripped out the carpet & found a beautiful wood floor underneath of there. We sanded it out & put about 6 coats of polyeurothane on it we got some free fencing off of craigslist & fenced her back yard, & dug a sandpit/litterbox outside. We still work on the fact that we must realize we can't save them all but we do the best we can for the one's we do have.

STORY: I had a lady shoot at me when I showed up at her door, before I got to the gate I could smell feces, & urine, I could here dozens of dogs barking. I almost got shot because when she opened the door the smell was so strong that it almost knocked me on my butt. I called the Sheriff out there & he took her into custody for firing the weapon at me & we removed the animals, sadly 2 of them didn't make it but the other 27 did, I took them to various rescues, & although she was never charged she was put on probation with home monitoring & she was warned not to get anymore animals or they would revoke her probation. She recently passed away & did leave me a message thanking me for taking care of her babies.

My experience has been that people start out with good intentions & then it spirals out of control, sometimes it is pure selfishness & willful, other times it is a mental health issue. Unfortunately the media has caused a good deal of the problems... People are TERRIFIED to reach out for help for fear of retribution, or ending up on the front page of the local or national newspaper, or worse yet in jail.

That is why I work with people, with breeders, with other agencies. When a group of dogs shows up at a local shelter or rescue in the Washington, Idaho, Montana, or California area, out of nowhere, good chance I had something to do with it, because I know I can't take them all but I have some of the best rescue partners in shelters & rescues that you could ever even pray for. I can't take dogs over 40lbs because I had a stroke, but I have rural shelters who will take big dogs for me, I can't take on more than one or 2 cats at a time because I don't have enough cat experience so I have other cat rescue people who will break their necks trying to help me.

Just recently I went on a transport mission, everyone who was supposed to pick up there dogs didn't, (I suspect the rescuers I am having trouble with had something to do with it but that is another story), so I have somewhere around 23 dogs. Holy cow what do I do now??? I went crying to my local shelter & they took ALL of those dogs, paid for their vetting & helped one who was too far gone to save, on the same day as they took 80 dogs from other local shelters!

So people ask me why do you work with breeders. Most of the breeders I “work” with actually take dogs from me & get them vetted & adopt them to people who are on their waiting lists. Most good breeders have a waiting list. I also work with breeders who show dogs, if they have a pup they think isn't show worthy they will usually fix them & give them to me to adopt out, that is right: Most of the time they pay for the vetting & give them to me. Sometimes the smaller breeders are strapped for cash & realize they are getting overwhelmed & can't take care of all of the animals they have & give them to me & then I have to pay for vetting. I also work with breeders because they teach me so much about the breeds & they have such a love for them that you can't find the info they have, or know in any book.

Hoarding can be dangerous to the person & the animals health, so hoping things will get better is not a successful method of thinking. With that kind of thinking it never does get better because the person is never given the opportunity to realize any kind of error in their thinking & current situation

The bottom line is I got into rescue because I made just about every mistake I could as a pet owner, so I don't judge until I know the whole story. I wish that more rescues & shelters would focus on helping people, as well as animals

If you know of someone in trouble or you are in trouble please call us, even if I can't help we can work a plan so that everyone is taken care of & it doesn't get so bad that you don't know what to do.

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