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March 14, 2013

HSUS Rescues 100+ Animals In Ohio Hoarding Case

The HSUS is well known for its ongoing operations devoted to shuttering dogfighting rings and abusive puppy mills. But we also take on many animal hoarding cases, and our Animal Rescue Team handled one such deeply disturbing case in eastern Ohio this week.

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Mike McFarland/The HSUS
As spokesperson for The HSUS' Animal Rescue Team,
Survivor winner Jenna Morasca visited our temporary
emergency shelter to give the animals much-needed TLC.

On Tuesday, the team deployed to Belmont County to remove more than 100 animals from a site featuring unimaginable conditions of neglect and misery (see video here). The HSUS and the Belmont County Animal Rescue League were called in by the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office to remove almost 60 dogs, 30 cats, 14 horses, several goats and a number of birds suffering from untreated medical conditions and a lack of basic care.

Conditions at the property were extreme and unacceptable, with animals jammed into small enclosures, caked in feces, and drawing breath from ammonia-filled air. The facility lacked basic shelter, and the animals felt the full effect of cold, snow, wind and rain. Not surprisingly, the animals were underweight and suffered from dental disease, skin conditions and respiratory ailments.

Hoarding has come to the fore in recent years as a challenge for animal care and law enforcement personnel all over the country. While removing animals from a hoarding situation helps the animals at risk, it does not necessarily prevent the hoarder from reverting back to form. It is an astonishing thought, but pathological hoarders have recidivism rates approaching 100 percent. The responsibility for addressing these cases falls primarily on local law enforcement and humane organizations – typically placing enormous financial burdens on them as a consequence of long-term medical care and sheltering. Our team helps these agencies navigate hoarding cases, providing them with resources to deal with the crisis they’ve now inherited from a negligent animal owner.

Animal cruelty charges that result in meaningful penalties are a necessary part of an effective response from the judicial system. But, especially in cases like this, we ask that the courts impose a period of long-term probation, a ban on animal ownership for these individuals, and psychological counseling. Indeed, if we are to break the cycle of hoarding, we must have multiple agencies play a role, including those specializing in psychiatric treatment. 

I’m glad we were able to pull these animals out of such misery. Our work on this case now moves to the next stage – rehabilitating and placing the animals, and then dealing with the perpetrators. In the broader sense, we’ll continue our efforts to confront hoarders and other people who put animals in crisis.

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