Our lead story triggered many memories for me. Emily, my wonderful little donkey and the subject of our last Christmas appeal, was removed from a hoarder in 1994.
Here we go again, I thought. As the director of a humane society at that time, I remember how our staff members who assisted were stunned when they encountered their first hoarder case. For anyone who has never been to one, there are no words to explain how inexplicably horrific it is. For anyone who has, none are needed. The images, sounds, and smells are indescribable but unforgettable.
A hoarder is someone who amasses more animals than he/she can properly care for. Such individuals generally fail to recognize – or refuse to acknowledge – when the animals in their custody become victims of gross neglect.
I remember when I was a child on Long Island, my father, on his way to and from work, passed a dog sitting for three days by the side of the road. He finally determined the poor animal had been abandoned and found a shelter which promised that this dog, along with the other surrendered animals, would be allowed to live out his life there if not adopted. To this day, I am haunted by the story, wondering if this sweet dog had been betrayed a second time by someone who was trying to do the right thing. Was it really a wonderful place? Or did we condemn this innocent little dog to a life of misery, suffering and a slow death at the hands of a hoarder?
Over the years, NYSHA has been involved in the rescue of many animals from hoarders. Such collectors are all over the country. More frightening, how many hoarders exist that we are not aware of? Yet the uninformed media and public continue to sanctify these animal abusers as animal lovers with the right intentions but in need of a little help.
They need more than a little help. They need laws that will stop them much sooner, the public to put pressure on law enforcement officials to not wait so long before intervening, and judges to make more appropriate decisions. Hoarders have histories, and as the saying goes, history repeats itself.
When I fed Emily this morning, I was thankful for how far she had come, both literally and figuratively. I wondered if the person who surrendered her to a hoarder so many years ago didn’t care, or simply, like my dad, just didn’t know.
I choose to believe the latter, because then there’s hope. We can all work to educate everyone we know to remember the moral here: Beware – things are not always what they seem. Never surrender an animal to any person or facility without thoroughly investigating and personally seeing it. (Contact NYSHA for guidelines.) Spread the word that these so-called fairy tale farms and shelters in the country are in reality almost always a horror story.
As always, for the animals,
New York State Humane Association Humane Review, Vol.XIX, No.2, Summer 2004.