This morning, HSUS staff, along with members of the sheriff’s office in Adams County, Ohio, walked in on a horrific sight during an animal rescue mission: on the property of what had once been registered as a nonprofit rescue sanctuary were dogs and cats of all ages — 166 animals, in all. There were dogs in pens, on chains, inside crates, and roaming loose. Some were emaciated. There were animals with untreated wounds, flea and tick infestations, severe eye and ear infections, and mange. One of the dogs was missing an eye, another had a broken leg.
Deer carcasses dotted the property: it was the primary food source for the dogs who were scavenging and picking at them. The stench, one of the rescuers recounted, was terrible. It was animal neglect at its worst.
I have shared with you before stories of our animal rescue missions against dogfighters and puppy mills. We also take on neglect, general cruelty, and animal hoarding cases. This was an especially horrific one, according to our rescuers, who have through the years seen flashes of the worst of humanity.
The animals, who greeted our rescuers with wags and kisses despite a prior lifetime of neglect, have been removed from the site to a temporary shelter where they will receive medical attention and care. We are thankful to agencies who are assisting with the care of the animals, including Red Rover, Rescue Bank, Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, and Greater Good.
The blend of animal cruelty and animal hoarding is a challenge for animal care and law enforcement personnel all over the country. There is often little recourse to prevent the hoarder from recidivism. In fact, pathological hoarders have recidivism rates approaching 100 percent. The responsibility for addressing these cases falls primarily on local law enforcement and humane organizations and the cost of long-term medical care and sheltering places enormous financial burdens on them.
Animal cruelty charges that result in meaningful penalties are a necessary part of an effective response from the judicial system. But, especially in cases like this, we ask that the courts impose a period of long-term probation, a ban on animal ownership for these individuals, and psychological counseling. If we are to break the cycle of hoarding, we must have multiple agencies play a role, including those specializing in psychiatric treatment.
We are glad we were able to intervene. Yet, it’s a sad circumstance and one we must prevent with stronger laws in Ohio and a more determined approached to root out animal problems. We are committed to fortifying the legal framework for animals in Ohio, strengthening the anti-cruelty statutes, and cracking down on practices such as illegal cockfighting, puppy mills, hoarding, and neglect.
* Editor’s note: The total tally of animals rescued during this mission has been updated.