There are those people that are called hoarders. Among rescue people these individuals are seen as the most evil of people, comparable often times with animal abusers and murderers.
Lets take a look at the mentality that makes up a hoarder. A hoarder is a person that takes in animals and continues to take in more and more often times with no limit in sight. Their houses are over-run with dogs, cats, and whatever else. These people continue to take in more animals even though they are unable to care for the animals they have in a way that is acceptable by our standards. Most of the time this compulsion is triggered by several factors, namely in an effort to keep these animals from being killed at shelters. Hoarders are not collectors (who may have a “collection” of one type of dog or a particular animal), but instead take any and all animals. It’s not uncommon to see a hoarder with dogs, cats, and horses among other animals.
A hoarders goal starts out very noble and somewhere goes awry. They start out with 2, 3 or 4 animals and begin amassing more and more. Often times they try to adopt out the animals they have, but these efforts get squashed as the toll of taking care of their current animals takes up too much of their time. Their number grow by people dropping off animals to them, they get them from the shelters, strays find their way to the hoarders property and just about any other way to get animals, they get them. As it is very obvious to understand, without a major staff, it is impossible to care for but only a few animals. Hoarders don’t see the crazy cycle of neglect that is cast upon the animals, as their main goal is to keep the animals alive. They clearly see one vision: these animals would all be killed at a shelter. This forces us to look at a scary logic, is it better to have these animals living in somewhat deplorable conditions or kill them at the shelter? There are those who think that killing an animal (or as they refer to it- euthanizing) is a humane thing to do. I can only cite very-very rare occasions in which ending an animals life is a humane thing to do.
Although I do not agree with hoarders, I do understand their twisted logic or I should say, where their hearts lie. These people are animal lovers, they are trying to provide for the animals and save them, but the mission goes wrong somewhere. When the levy finally breaks and the amount of animals attracts enough attention, rescue groups and animal control agencies will step in. At this moment all efforts are shifted toward one thing: saving these animals from these deplorable conditions: although I ask the question, “Where were these people before?” What happens to these animals now is where the true demented logic comes in. For the most part they are taken to rescue organizations which are already over-run with too many animals, they are take to shelters which are also over-run with too many animals and the rest are killed / euthanized because of their conditions. The hoarder will go to jail, serve some time, pay a fine and eventually be free to start the same cycle again.
Ask most people in rescue if they had a million dollars what would they do with that money and I can assure you most will tell you that they would buy a big piece of property and take in as many animals as possible. These are the same people that abhor hoarders; at their core they are the same people. At their core they see the goodness, yet are unaware of the pitfall.
Are hoarders bad people? Are they abusers? I would say NO. The goodness of the mission goes wrong along the way and they get caught in the middle of a whirlwind that can’t be righted. These people started out with the goal of saving animals from the hands of those that will kill them, eventually only to be judged and condemned by these very people. Their animals are not properly cared for mainly because of a lack of resources. It should be noted that hoarders, for the most part, spend all of their money on the animals they have. These people are not living high on the hog in one house with these animals being abused and neglected somewhere else. Quite the contrary, these people live in the very same deplorable conditions that the animals under care live in. This indication alone shows me that these people are no more animal abusers, as they are human abusers because of the abuse they subject themselves to. They deny themselves the luxuries of life and instead live in sub-human conditions with the animals they are trying to save.
When the rescue community steps in, it is generally with a whirlwind of excitement, media attention and accusations hurled against someone who is not that far removed from the people casting the stones. Here is someone whose initial goals started out quite aligned with his or her own. These people step in and start taking the animals one by one, starting out with the ones that can be adopted and eventually ending up at the feral ones that no one can touch. These animals are generally on a short list to be killed.
I’d be a hypocrite if I only laid blame without a solution. And, perhaps my “solution” is less of a solution than an ideal that can be seen as nothing more than a dream. Since these people started out doing the work that all of us in rescue see as “kind of” the right idea that somewhere went wrong, how hard would it be to step in and help these people with some resources and support. What if their homes could be rebuilt to clean them up, some donations could be gathered to help with food and supplies and rescue organizations worked with them to help them adopt their animals out to homes? What if some people volunteered some time to keep this type of “no-kill shelter” rolling? What if our efforts would be geared at helping instead of hurting?
Instead people see these places as a dumping ground for dogs that they’ve been stuck with. Rescue needs to take a good hard look at themselves and understand that if someone is trying to do the right thing, they deserve some help. Throwing a person under the train does nothing to help the animals they’ve tried to help. As humans we are afraid to stand up for someone when it becomes un-popular, it’s easier to cast a stone than to ask people to put their stones down and try and do something.
If hoarders are such evil people, we need to define when they turn evil and what makes them evil. Is it when they have more than 10 animals, 20, 50 or 100? If they suddenly become evil at that point, why don’t people step in then and help? Is the act of evil that they are keeping these animals from being destroyed at shelters? Is the act of evil that they take these animals from people who drop them off to them, who tie them to their fences or even throw them over those very fences? Is evil living in deplorable conditions along with the animals in their care? As rescue we need to step up and help those who are helping, we need to work together. And, when one of our own is prosecuted, we should step up to help. I am in no way condoning hoarders or hoarding, but I am inviting you to look at that what makes hoarding what it is. We live in a country where we kill millions of animals every year. It’s done in a back room at the end of a hallway. We all know the room is there, but we choose to ignore it. If getting an animal out of a shelter gives it a chance at life, is it better to do that or kill it? It’s a perplexing question and one that we have to ask. If you were given the option to live in sub-standard conditions or face death, what would you choose? Personally I don’t know many dogs who live the life of the dogs that my closest friends have, but yet they live. Are we to judge what is good enough, and play G-d?