In the wake of 3 animal hoarding/animal cruelty cases right here in S. Florida in the past 4 weeks, totaling approximately 120 dogs, some cats, a pig, a goat and over 140 birds, I feel compelled to express concern.
How is animal hoarding defined?
The pathological accumuation of animals was first described in  and animal hoarding was formally defined in the public health literature in  using the following criteria:
- Having more than the typical number of companion animals
- Failing to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in illness and death from starvation, spread of infectious disease, and untreated injury or medical condition
- Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling.
- Persistence, despite this failure, in accumulating and controlling animals
Oddly enough, the thing I find most disturbing about the recent hoarding cases are the humans defending the hoarding behavior, stating that the dogs would have been euthanized were it not for the hoarder.
If you go to a shelter and rescue a dog in urgent need of medical attention because no one else will take the dog…or you rescue a dog with a severe eye infection and limited vision, or a missing eye, or missing limb because they will most likely be put down…and then you do nothing to provide appropriate medical care for that dog and allow it to suffer, are you helping? Clearly not. Is this considered animal cruelty under the law? Yes it is.
Multiply that by 50 or 100 dogs, none of them receiving proper care because of lack of space, resources, time, ability to keep up with the sheer workload of caring for that many animals. That is hoarding. Do we then pat the hoarder on the back and say, “but he or she loved those dogs. No one else wanted them, thankfully this hoarder has a big enough heart to want them all.” Sadly there are people out there who would rather defend the behavior, even hold them in high regard, than put the dog’s needs first.
We know from the definition above that denial is a big factor in the person doing the hoarding. But as a community, as humans removed from the situation, shouldn’t we first be the voice for the dogs suffering? Think about a child having an injury to their eye, severe ear infections, or a horrible skin rash and the parents doing nothing to provide proper medical care. Would you say, “yes, but those parents love that child.” Of course not. You, hopefully, would want the child to be helped, first and foremost.
Do you love your dog if you’re allowing it to suffer, day after day? This is an illness. And once again, its the animals who suffer. In the state of Florida where our municipal shelters average a 50% kill rate, and we are in the top 4 worst states for puppy sales, hoarders are in fact contributing to the problem in a huge way. (Florida, Illinois, New York and Ohio are the top 4 states for highest puppy sales, a new statistic recently published by the HSUS.)
I believe we have to turn off the breeding faucet, and we have to do so on a broad scale quickly. There are law makers and policy makers trying to outlaw puppy mills. There are rescues doing what they can to handle the overflow. Municipal shelters are trying to rally the community to get great pictures of the adoptable pets, post them to social media and have adoption events. But the simple, easy way to stop the breeding is for people to STOP buying from pet stores and breeders. Every puppy sold in a pet store, every breeder, whether its a show breeder, backyard breeder, hobby breeder, etc is contributing to the problem. We have to stop supporting the market. We have to STOP the demand. The only way is to stop buying dogs. Buying dogs is killing dogs. Buying dogs is keeping greedy puppy millers, puppy store owners, and breeders in business. Buying dogs is creating a need for kill shelters. Buying dogs is providing an endless supply of needy dogs for sick hoarders. Buying dogs is killing dogs. We can stop this madness. Each and every one of us can make a choice. Do not support any business that sells or breeds puppies.
Think this is extreme? Take a walk through our county funded shelters and meet the sea of pure bred, owner surrenders and strays, already trained, loving, wonderful dogs looking for a home. Sadly I have met and spoken to countless humans who have done this, who know the truth, know the facts and STILL think its okay to breed. They STILL think its okay to hoard. They STILL think its okay to buy a dog. Our situation is dire. We created the problem, its up to us to fix it. As collective consumers we have the power to send a message to pet stores and breeders of all kinds.
There are endless reasons to continue to rescue, adopt, spay, neuter and educate. Please make your choice count.