Guest post written by Maggie Marton - This is the third part in a three-part series on animal hoarding. Read part one and part two.
When the first vanload of dogs arrived at the temporary shelter, the volunteers sprang into action. We had spent the morning setting up and arranging crates, organizing intake and vet paperwork, and preparing for the day ahead.
It was stifling outside, a sticky, humid Indiana day. As soon as the dogs arrived, the crates were ferried from the van to the shelter so that none of the small dogs, who looked like min-pin mixes, suffered even more in the heat. Each dog was processed quickly: they received a number, a collar, and a crate. Their ages and breeds were estimated. Then they waited.
The second batch of dogs came in, and all but one flew through the same process. One dog was terrified. When her crate was brought in, she huddled in the corner with her back turned. Of the 13 dogs, she was the only who turned her back on the volunteers. She trembled in her crate. Unable to safely remove her, we waited for the animal control officer.
Once 12 of the 13 dogs were settled into their crates, we filled water dishes and fed them bits of hotdogs. Some of the dogs picked up on the system pretty quickly. I could see the lightbulb go on for one of the min-pins. She seemed to realize, “If I wag my tail, this lady rains meat!” So every time I passed her crate, the little girl stood and gave it her all. And I gave her hotdogs.
The vet arrived, and the volunteers each took a responsibility. Someone had to get each dog from his or her crate, someone else had to hold the dog while the vet conducted the exam, someone else drew the vaccinations, someone else filled out the paperwork.
The whole time, that thirteenth dog couldn’t settle. She barked, snarled, and growled. She started to break apart her crate. It took three volunteers to get zip ties around the bursting seams.
It’s a miracle, though, that she was the only one who struggled. Some of the dogs didn’t want to leave their crates to see the vet, but most of them happily took hotdogs and allowed the volunteers to scratch them.
The next morning, we fed them and tried to walk them – only one was confident enough to head outside on a leash. Throughout the morning, volunteers arrived to transport them to permanent shelters where they would await their forever homes.
In total, it took two days, dozens of volunteers and law enforcement officials, a number of shelters willing to make room, and more volunteers to transport the dogs to the shelters. It took supplies – rental trucks, paper towels, food and water bowls, cleaning supplies, tarps, crates, and more.
The time and expense of the operation exceeds what most organizations are able to handle. And the reality is that we were helping the dogs, not the hoarders. As the women demonstrated, hoarders are likely to hoard again without intensive treatment.
Unfortunately, the infrastructure and resources just aren’t in place to help animal hoarders overcome the hoarding.
So it’s likely that more dogs will suffer at the hands of these women and the thousands of other animal hoarders just like them.
If you suspect an animal hoarder in your area, contact your local humane association, animal shelter, and law enforcement. Volunteer to help with a rescue – it takes a lot of people to save the victims. And spread the word. Animal hoarding is an often-overlooked form of animal abuse.
Thankfully, these dogs were able to be saved. With awareness and support, we help even more victims of animal hoarding.
Image: Monroe County Humane Association
Maggie Marton is a freelance writer, editor, and grammar junkie. She lives in Bloomington, IN with her husband and two darling dogs.
Visit her online at www.maggiemarton.com or ohmydogblog.com.