Six Cats Rescued from Hoarder House: What to do if you Suspect Animal Hoarding

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The Pennsylvania SPCA charged a 65-year-old woman with 13 counts of animal cruelty this week after rescuing six live cats and recovering six dead cats from a home filled with filth and debris on Oct. 19.

Pennsylvania SPCA Humane Law Enforcement officers were called to a row house on the 1100 block of South Dorrance Street by Philadelphia Police officers who were checking on the home after neighbors failed to see the owner for several days and became concerned for her whereabouts.

The woman was found semi-conscious living in the trash-filled house along with the live cats that were parasite infested and in very poor condition. According to George Bengal, director of Humane Law Enforcement, some of the dead animals were mummified.  The house was condemned by officials at the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

The owner, whose name is being withheld, was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment and mental health evaluation. The six rescued cats are receiving veterinary care at the Pennsylvania SPCA’s headquarters at 350 E. Erie Avenue.

“Some of the saddest cases we see involve hoarding situations particularly among the elderly,” said Bengal.  “In cases like this, whether it’s a handful of animals or several dozen or more, the individuals become overwhelmed with the situation and lose the ability to care for their pets, and often for themselves. Our goal is to rescue the animals, get them into a safe environment and work cooperatively with the justice system and other agencies to get the people the help they need.”

How to Identify and Report Animal Hoarding

Local ordinances determine the number of pets an individual is permitted to have. In Philadelphia, individuals may have up to 12 cats or dogs or any combination. “The number of animals isn’t always the determining factor, however,” said Bengal. “We’ve seen people with large numbers of animals who have clean living conditions and are able to care for their pets in a satisfactory way. Where hoarding become an issue is when the individual has an  inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care often resulting in starvation, illness and death along with a denial of the problem.”

While the Pennsylvania SPCA has investigated cases of involving both men and women of all ages and socio-economic levels,  animal hoarders frequently:

  • Are older females living alone,
  • have  limited or no social interactions
  • live in conditions without telephone, public utilities or plumbing
  • hoard inanimate objects as well.

Signs of animal hoarding may include:

  • a number of animals that appear sickly, unkempt or malnourished,
  • strong odors coming from house, covered windows, overgrown vegetation
  • parasite  and rodent infestations that begin to affect neighboring properties,
  • refusal of owner to allow anyone inside the living quarters,
  • denies his or her inability to provide care and the impact of that failure on the animals, their home and other people who live on the property.

“Animal hoarding is a serious issue that negatively affects animals and the wellbeing of individuals and the community,” said Bengal.  If you suspect animal hoarding report it to the Pennsylvania SPCAs Anti-Cruelty hotline at 866-601-SPCA.