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Animal Hoarding: 'No Kill' or Helping that Hurts?

In a compelling 2011 book, “Cold-Blooded Kindness,” subtitled in part, “...Reflections on Helping that Hurts,” Barbara Oakley introduces concepts that may help us better understand how ostensibly compassionate people can commit the criminal act of animal hoarding and seem oblivious to the suffering and cruelty of keeping often hundreds of animals crammed into cages or rooms where their flesh is consumed by the accumulation of their own excrement and where they die from dehydration and starvation.

Animal hoarding is reaching epidemic levels nationwide, and increasingly there is evidence that it is correlated to the “No Kill” movement. Maddies’ Fund defines “No Kill” as, ““…all healthy and treatable animals are saved…” Nathan Winograd, challenges his followers farther, stating on a website called The No-Kill Nation, “The only animals dying in a No Kill community are dogs and cats who are irremediably suffering, are sick or injured with a poor or grave prognosis for rehabilitation, and vicious dogs with a poor prognosis. (This does not include shy or non-aggressive scared dogs.) Nothing short of that is acceptable. And nothing less will do.”

The idealism sounds wonderful but it is not realistic when unwanted and neglected animals are still pouring in the doors of public and private shelters all over the country, and at least 4 to 5 million a year are not adopted and are euthanized, according to The Humane Society of the United States, While there is much insistence on “saving” the animals, the No Kill websites are devoid of describing the humane conditions under which these “saved” animals must be kept. Unfortunately, many of these “saved” pets spend years in cages and kennels after they are “rescued.”

Best Friends states in a recent Associated Press article that it has 1,700 homeless animals in a “no-kill sanctuary.” Many unwanted pets are transported by shelters to other states and to Canada with no monitoring of their final disposition, to assure they do not show as euthanized on the facility’s statistics. .

The insistence that animals must be removed from “kill” shelters because there is no fate worse than humane euthanasia can cause serious emotional distress and pressure on a rescuer. Effective animal rescue requires refusing to take responsibility for animals beyond your ability to provide proper care for them. There are many responsible rescuers and private organizations that rehome pets annually and who devote much of their lives to spay/neuter efforts to reduce pet overpopulation. They all want to see an end to the need to euthanize adoptable animals.

But, the radical insistence by "No Kill" proponents that the only thing keeping public shelters from being “No Kill” is a lack of effort to adopt them to the public is not true. Statistically, less than 20 percent of animals are adopted from animal shelters and that has not changed much after billions of dollars has been spent on education and adoption programs

Until breeding (backyard and professional) is strictly curtailed areawide, spay/neuter efforts maximized, and humane care laws enforced without exception, unwanted animals will come into shelters in far larger numbers than quality adopters. With these solutions put in place as a priority, shelter euthanasia will decrease automatically.


In most states, there are no laws requiring rescuers/rescue organizations to be licensed or have any training in animal care, or any background check in order to hang up their shingle and start taking animals from shelters. Some take only the most desirable impounded pets, called “cherry picking,” free or at a minimal cost from public shelters for resale at a substantial profit (plus donations).

With the growing “no kill” pressure, there is an increasing number of reported hoarding cases where those involved obviously do not have the animals’ best interest at heart, but the tenacity and relentlessness of the “No Kill” movement has convinced a large part of the public and appointed or elected officials not to risk their wrath by questioning..

As a supposedly humane nation, how long do we continue to excuse horrific animal hoarders who often function adequately in social and academic realms and maintain a career—attorneys, veterinarians, even a former Mayor of Beverly Hills, have recently been convicted of gross animal neglect/abuse in hoarding cases. These are not people suffering from such a debilitating mental disorder that they are justified in keeping animals in gruesome conditions and filthy cages, providing inadequate care, and bypassing prosecution because they claim to “love and save” animals:

A tragic example is currently in the news. On January 26, in Summerdale, Alabama, police were called to Purple-Hearted Puppies kennel, a no-kill shelter, where over 200 animals were in various stages of starvation and some even forced to cannibalize dead kennelmates in order to survive. Forty-two dogs and cats were dead and two horses had to be immediately euthanized. When officers went to the home of the mother and daughter who owned the kennel, another 15 animals in similar condition were found. Both adults were present.

If you have never seen the horrors of an animal-hoarding situation and the misery and desperation of the surviving, helpless victims, please read this article, “Hundreds of Dogs and Cats Near Starvations…Dozens Dead” and watch the video here:

And watch “New Developments - Abandoned Animals, which discusses that the 15 animals at the home of the hoarders had not had food or water for at least ten days. See video here:

In a July 2011 article, Is ‘No-Kill' Movement Leading to More Cat Hoarding? Cindy Swirko writes about a recent Gainesville, Florida, hoarding case: “Haven Acres kept hundreds of cat in deplorable conditions that left some dead and many more sick.”

“No-kill rescue groups and shelters abound…These groups and others get potential pets from the Alachua County Animal Services shelter and offer them for adoption. But they have limited money, space and volunteers. So the number of animals they can take in is limited.

“That narrows the options for people intent on getting rid of an animal — take it to shelter and risk euthanasia, dump it somewhere or try to find a place that will take it with a promise of no euthanasia. A place like Haven Acres.”


In Cold-Blooded Kindness, Barbara Oakley discusses the concept of “the sanctity of the victim,” which, once established, purportedly excuses bizarre behaviors by a self-declared savior and validates the importance of the rescuer who selflessly sacrifices his/her life to be an angel of mercy and thus should be above criticism and questioning.

Could this explain the insistence by hoarders that they alone can "love their animals” and that even animals found dead under urine and feces saturated sofas and in dresser drawers are all right and being “treated?”

Looking at it from this perspective and applying another of Barbara Oakley’s posits, would this perhaps more properly classify animal hoarding as a “disorder of certainty” rather than obsessive-compulsive, which Oakley states, “…involves the inability to be certain”?

If so, should the certainty that they are ordained to fulfill a mission of rescue exempt offenders from violation of laws and should society be blind to their accountability for resultant inhumaneness of their actions? The lack of criminal penalties specifically directed toward the hoarding of animals would suggest it does. Although an increasing number of hoarders are prosecuted for animal neglect/cruelty, animal hoarding itself has been historically considered as a mental illness and is still categorized with “cluttering” by some mental health standards.

“FIRST LAW” Imperative for the “No Kill” Movement?

Oakley presents another perspective of sanctifying the victim. Followers of movements based on this concept believe they have found their “calling.” They are engulfed by the sense of belonging and the cult-like, ostensible imperative of the “…overwhelming importance of their own role in selfless service to those victims.” The charisma and inspirational rhetoric of leaders can have a hypnotic, compelling effect which Oakley calls the “First Law.” The First Law requires that any criticism of such leaders must be rejected, along with “…anyone who dares to criticize them.”

Let’s look at recent inspirational statements by the major leaders of the “No Kill” movement, whose statistics, formulas, E-metric measurements and projections are accepted without question by novice and seasoned animal-welfare advocates/rescuers who want desperately to see an end to pet overpopulation and the need to euthanize homeless, surplus pets.

In the January 9, 2012, Associated Press article, Euthanasia to control shelter population unpopular, the three No-Kill experts that have spoken for the past two decades rally the hopeful again. Richard Avazino of Maddies Fund stated "We are just a breath away from doing what is right for the animals," He sees an anticipated $70 million per year in corporate donations by 2015 as a key factor in reaching the “No Kill” goal, according to the AP report.

In the same article, Nathan Winograd tells us that 95 percent of all animals entering shelters can be adopted or treated and most of the 5 percent remaining “…can be cared for in hospice centers or sanctuaries.” As for public shelters nationwide being packed with 60 to 70 percent pit bulls and other dogs “with aggressive reputations,” his solution is for “shelters to do a better job of trying to find them homes.”

Best Friends founder/director Gregory Castle reminds us that 800 grassroot groups have joined the Best Friends’ network “to make their communities no-kill.” He admits that “No Kill” is a nebulous term in his explanation that, “Differences in the varying no-kill campaigns are mostly a matter of nuance…and how you define sick and aggressive.”

Cindy Swirko, who wrote about the Gainsville Haven Acres hoarding case, isn’t convinced that everything is going that successfully in the “No Kill” movement. She writes about the opinions of a different group of observers and reflects:

Experts say the "no-kill" movement is increasingly being exploited by hoarders who take in far more animals than they can handle, including many from people who think the animals they're handing over will live out their lives in heaven but actually end up in a living hell.

"If I was going to design a prison for bad cats, it would look like a lot of these sanctuaries, with poor housing, no protection for them to express their normal behavior or to be healthy," said Julie Levy, a University of Florida veterinary professor who specializes in cats. "I think this is an emergency situation in animal welfare because it appears to be growing. In some ways, the use of terminology like ‘no kill' is contributing to this.”


According to, animal hoarding cases rose from 60 in 2000 to 146 in 2010. It is also disturbing that often only one charge of animal cruelty is filed when there are hundreds of victims. This minimal penalty devalues the remainder of the lost lives and suffering to the point of insignificance. Additionally, it enables the perpetrator to be released quickly, often moving to another location where they can continue to satiate their addiction to harming and killing animals in the name of love. _ranking.php?year=2009&search=go


We all would love to see a end of the need to euthanize behaviorally and physically sound discarded pets, but there are just not enough homes to adopt them. Humane euthanasia to relieve shelter overcrowding cannot be stopped just because it is uncomfortable or unpopular without subjecting thousands of innocent animals to suffering in packed kennels plagued with disease and injury or death from attacks and fighting.

We must not allow them to be “rescued” by those who are unprepared for or unable to provide for all their needs. We also cannot, in the name of “No Kill” and in our rush to feel good about having them “leave the shelter” release them into the hands of someone who can sadistically watch them suffer and/or starve to death, often with food available on the premises.

Can we continue to accept that unconscionable crimes against multiple victims in hoarding cases are just kindness gone awry? Shouldn’t specific laws/provisions address the egregious factors in these cases and the recidivism that is almost certain?

Is animal hoarding an uncontrollable mental disorder; a crime of misguided intentions? Or should those who harm, torture and kill animals with their “kindness” be held as culpable as child, spousal and elder abusers? Is animal hoarding an act of love, or does it mask a perverse need for ultimate power and control over helpless, defenseless, captive victims?

(Note: Barbara Oakley is also the author of Evil Genes and Pathological Altruism.


Less than one month into 2012, already shocking stories of animal hoarding have been reported across the United States. A few are discussed below:

Dogs’ Would-be Rescuer Held (Los Angeles Times, 1/25/12)

A Tennessee state trooper discovered 140 dogs and one cat crammed into a U-Haul truck and a towed mini-van, according to the L.A. Times. “Some dogs were in cages, while others were loose, the trooper said in an affidavit obtained by The Times. One dog was dead.”,0,5620032.story

The floors of the truck and van were covered with feces and urine and the dogs had not been removed to relieve themselves for the entire four days nor was there any evidence that food and water had been available during any of that time, according to reports.

But the subtitle of the article in the Times reads, “Nobody doubts that Bonnie Sheehanloves dogs.” (Author’s note: I guess it’s too late to ask the one who died in the truck about that “love.”)

Ms. Sheehan, head of Hearts for Hounds, states she was moving the animals to Virginia to find a better market for adoptions because she was overloaded at the “no kill” kennel she rented on Obispo Avenue in Long Beach, California. According to reports, animal control officials were in the process of addressing the fact that Sheehan had 150 dogs in kennel space legally allowing only 75. “Ms. Sheehan devoted her life to finding homes for animals so they would not be euthanized in a shelter, said her supporters.”

The Memphis Commercial Appeal saw it a little differently, and wrote”

During a routine traffic stop on Jan. 17, officers with the West Tennessee Drug Task Force discovered more than 100 dogs— and one cat — packed in carriers and make-shift cages in a filthy U-Haul truck and 25 more dogs riding in a minivan being towed by the truck. The animals had no access to food or water.

The dogs were in cages and loose in the back of the trucks and apparently that’s the way they left California. Bonnie Sheehan, 55, and her passenger, Pamela King-McCracken, a 59-year-old volunteer with her rescue organization, were arrested, jailed and charged with felony animal cruelty.”

WREG-TV in Memphis. reported that the women were each charged with one count of aggravated animal cruelty, a Class E felony, and were jailed on $100,000 bond each in Fayette County. Both could face up to two years each if convicted. Other charges are still possible, according to District Attorney. Gen. Mike Dunavan. They agreed to relinquish custody of the animals, according to local media reports. The preliminary hearing was continued until Feb. 21.

NBC affiliate WSLS 10 in Roanoke reported there were “…no records of Hearts for Hounds registering as an animal shelter or pet adoption agency or applying for a legally required licensing.” The station also reported that neither of the properties listed in Sheehan's and McCracken's names in Virginia were zoned for use for pet adoption or animal sheltering. .)

Note: To read about another Long Beach hoarding case in which Alexis Kyrklund andGloria Ramos of Noah’s Ark were convicted, see JUDGE JESSE RODRIGUEZ SPEAKS OUT ON ANIMAL CRUELTY AND HOARDING

Kern County, CA: 200 Animals Found in Neglect; Caretaker Arrested

On January 9, the Californian reported that animal control officers and staff of the Bakersfield Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found more than 200 animals, most of them dogs, suffering from neglect, dehydration, malnutrition, illness and injury, when they got to Duain Preitz's remote Best of Buddies “no kill” rescue property west of Rosamond. The haphazard compound was full of 215 animals, including approximately 165 dogs, plus cats, horses, ducks, chickens, and a pig. An undisclosed number of deceased animals were also found.

Duain Preitz was arrested on suspicion of felony animal cruelty. Kern County Animal Control Division Manager Ron Brewster said the original mission to evaluate the animals immediately turned into a criminal investigation when officers saw their conditions.

Prietz has been in trouble with the county since early 2006 because he did not have proper approval for a kennel on the property and was not caring for the animals properly, county records show. He got rid of the 100 dogs he had on the property at the time. But a year later he re-established his kennel operation and started adding more animals. In fall 2010, after inspections revealed continued land use violations and inadequate shelters for the animals, Preitz was denied a permit by the Kern County Planning Commission.

“The [animal] shelter isn't an ideal situation for the dogs,” Brewster said, “but it's much better than the conditions they were found in Friday.”

More Kern County Animal Hoarding Cases

Kern County reports it has stepped up enforcement of animal abuse and has recently successfully prosecuted hoarders, including Cynthia Gudger, who was discovered living in filth with her pets in a warehouse in Tehachapi, and Cindy Bemis, who ran a troubled no-kill animal shelter in the desert near Mojave for years.

Oakland Cat Lady Who Beat the IRS, Loses Her Nearly 100 Cats

Jan Van Dusen, 60, family-law attorney and large-scale cat rescuer in Oakland, beat the IRS last year and won the write off of cat-rescue/care expenses, but she now faces animal cruelty charges for the neglect of her 100 cats, mostly former strays and ferals, according to reports. She was scheduled for a first hearing before Alameda Superior Court on January 23.

A series of complaints from neighbors about animal neglect and offensive odors led animal control officials to raid Van Dusen's 1,500 square foot home late last October, where they discovered 93 cats and two dogs--many suffering from ailments ranging from parasite infections to severe malnutrition. Sixteen of the animals were deemed terminally ill and had to be put down, while the rest were put up for adoption.

Van Dusen made headlines last year when her attempt to write off $12,068 in expenses for care for her cats were denied by the IRS, saying that such expenses were personal and therefore not tax deductible because she lacked letters from Fix Our Ferals (where she volunteered) acknowledging the deductions benefited the non-profit

The former family law attorney took the IRS to court and won the right to deduct the vast majority of her animal care costs. She now faces one count of felony animal cruelty and has been charged with one felony count of animal cruelty, which could land her a $20,000 fine and up to three years in jail. Van Dusen has plead not guilty. .

Savannah, SC - Daniel Golden, 43, charged with 71 counts of animal neglect in hoarding case.

Seventy-one dogs were found in home of a Savannah, South Carolina, man accused of hoarding. The house in the 300 block of East 33rd Street has been condemned andDaniel Golden, 43, has been charged with more than 100 city ordinance violations, states Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police.

Among the charges brought against Golden are 71 counts of animal neglect and 50 counts of failing to properly vaccinate the dogs, according to a news release. The dogs, from newborns to adults were living in "filth,” and police said animal waste was ankle-deep in some parts of the home, and the dogs were hiding amid the clutter, including inside a stove-bottom drawer and within the walls.

"They will need the perfect home because they will require a lot of patience and potty training because they've never been outside,” said a rescuer who is helping with plans for placement of the animals. .

Battle Creek MI - Child living in Michigan home with 33 dogs covered in feces and urine

The Kalamazoo Gazette reported on January 21 that 33 neglected dogs, covered with feces and urine and cramped into carriers and kennels, were removed on Friday from a home in Lee Township (Battle Creek, MI) and taken to the animal shelter.

Battle Creek City Police Animal Control Division and the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office responded to a complaint of animal cruelty and neglect in the 19000 block of 20 1/2 Mile Road in Lee Township, according to the report.

Police also discovered a 13-year-old girl living at the residence and reported for investigation by Children's Protective Services, the report stated.

A 42-year-old female resident was not arrested at the scene, but a warrant is being sought through Calhoun County Prosecutor's Office for animal cruelty and child endangerment, according to the report (See WOOD8 TV report at. )

Waco TX - Woman Arrested After 17 Animals Found Abandoned at Waco Home

Marcia Ann Allsup, 50, of McLennan County turned herself in after she was charged with animal cruelty, according to on January 23, 2012. She was released on $3,000 bond.

The charge stems from the seizure of 17 dogs and cats on January 3 from her home at 4648 Wood Street. The animals were turned over to the Waco Humane Society and Allsup was ordered to pay to pay $2,670 in restitution to cover boarding fees and veterinary treatments. She also must pay court fees.

Animal control officers found several dogs in the yard of the home without food or water and could hear additional animals inside the house. They found dogs and a cat in the home also without food and water and a large amount of animal waste in and around the home.

Five animals that appeared to be infested with mange and had been without food or water for several days were found locked inside storage sheds in the backyard of the home.


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