A report by the ASPCA’s forensic sciences and animal cruelty division stated that nearly 25 percent of new animal-hoarding cases involve rescuers.

This is a sobering statistic.

Many organizations involved in hoarder cases are legal, nonprofit charities. Anybody can get charity status in the United States, and a slick website and cute pictures do not tell anything about the conditions the cats are kept in. Learn the warning signs and how you can help protect cats and other animals from hoarder situations.

A History of Hoarder Rescues

SAFE Haven was in existence for 13 years before being called upon to help with our first hoarder case. Between November 2007 and March 2008, our team removed 68 animals from one property.

These situations can become critical not only for the animals involved but for the homeowner, too. Sadly, their occurrences are escalating every year.

In November of 2013, we helped local animal control with 92 cats living in one house, and in March 2014, we worked with the Humane Society of the U.S. in the removal of 48 cats from one home. Both of these homes were the headquarters of nonprofit rescue organizations. But because they were homes—and thus, operating in a legal gray area—they were not inspected and licensed by the NC Department of Agriculture.

SAFE Haven’s facilities are inspected and licensed to operate as a shelter and clinic. There are many licensed rescue groups and shelters doing incredible work throughout our state.

Animal Hoarder Warning Signs

Because of mental illnesses such as dementia, addiction, attachment disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, some people believe that any life is better than no life for an animal. Well-meaning rescuers who become hoarders have some activities and traits in common:

  • They cannot say no and have no idea they are in over their heads.
  • They feel they are the only person who understands a particular animal, the only one who can take care of the animal properly.
  • They have no procedures in place to adopt the majority of animals; they do not take the cats to available outlets such as PetSmart, PETCO or other available service providers.
  • They are not governed by a board of directors.
  • They are not licensed or inspected.

As the relapse rate for hoarders is almost 100 percent, it is imperative that these people get the help they need to rebuild their lives, stop their rescue activities permanently and have only one or two pet animals for the rest of their lives.

What You Can Do

If you suspect someone of hoarding animals, alert a trusted community resource like SAFE Haven. We encourage you to do your research when taking a cat to a rescue organization or deciding to donate to one. Ask the following questions:

  • How many cats are you caring for right now? Where are they? Can I see them?
  • What is the average length of stay for your animals?
  • How do you get them adopted? How many per year?
  • Are you licensed?
  • Do you have a veterinarian actively managing your animals on a weekly/daily basis?

SAFE Haven believes most people want to help animals and do not want to see them suffer or be needlessly killed. Our organization is dedicated to the welfare of cats and works with various organizations to step up and provide proper care to animals rescued from hoarder cases.

As Pam Miller, our executive director, put it, “Our goal at SAFE Haven is to restore the health, happiness and well-being of rescued cats and to find them new wonderful homes as soon as possible.”

Most recently, we rescued 34 cats from the Chatham County Hoarder case. Click here to find out more about our involvement in this case.