It’s easy to become angry when you hear of cases of animal hoarding. I cringe when I see photos of the squalid conditions that often accompany these cases: dogs or cats covered in their own feces, floors burned with urine, skinny animals with sunken eyes and patchy fur.
But no one plans to become an animal hoarder; most are suffering from psychological issues causing things to spiral out of control. Criminal charges are not usually brought upon an offender, and such a person is unlikely to change the behavior.
A fairly new program at New York City’s ASPCA sees a solution by addressing the animals as well as the owner. The Cruelty Intervention Advocacy team takes a holistic approach to hoarding cases by securing the animals, and then educating and supporting the owner to prevent a repeat predicament.
Recently, the CIA was called to investigate a New York City residence that housed a great deal of dogs. They found a well-meaning owner living with about 55 Dachshunds of various ages.
Pointing to a stream of continuous litters, the owner admitted to being overwhelmed by the large number of dogs in her care.
“She expressed interest in giving up some of the dogs for adoption,” said Allison Cardona, director of the CIA program. “It’s a slow process.”
The owner agreed to turning over 21 of the Dachshunds, 14 of which are puppies, and four of which are featured in these photos. These went to the ASPCA adoption center to receive medical attention and spay/neuter, and to begin the road to a healthier life. Meanwhile, portable units were sent to give all remaining dogs any needed medical attention, including spay/neuter surgery.
Part of the CIA’s role is to stay with the case, and Cardona says the team will remain working with the owner, who is expected to release another wave of dogs.
“A lot of what we do involves building trust and relationships, and helping the people we work with understand that our goal is to help them and their animals,” said Allison Cardona, director of the CIA program. “What we’re seeing from this approach [is less relapse] and significant improvements in people’s behavior over time.”
The team includes a case worker, who monitors the case over time to watch for signs of a relapse and to formulate action plans as needed. The CIA remains ready to step in, should the animals be in any harm.
It’s good to know that the little Dachshund puppies, who didn’t exist in the hoarding environment long enough to suffer lasting ills, were quickly adopted and have found happy lives with their new owners.
Since its creation in 2010, the Cruelty Intervention Adocacy program has intervened to help 4,000 New York City animals, from hoarding as well as other situations where the owners can no longer properly care for the animals. See how you can support the ASPCA’s mission to end suffering.
Read more about hoarding and backyard breeding: