When Animal Rescuers Become Animal Hoarders
A fascinating story from MSNBC.com and Sue Manning and timely one. Is there a fine line between a heroic animal rescuer and animal hoarder?
For example, Linda Bruno called her Pennsylvania cat rescue the land
of milk and tuna. It thrived for years as people sent pets they
couldn’t care for from hundreds of miles away — unaware it was a death
camp for cats.
Investigators who raided the place two years ago found killing
rooms, mass graves so thick they couldn’t take a step without walking
on cat bones. Bruno had taken in over 7,000
cats in the previous 14 months, but found homes for a mere 23.
She called herself an animal rescuer, and no doubt convinced others partially because she believed she was a savior. And she was, after all, running a legit not-for-profit.
Rescues and shelters now make up a quarter of the estimated 6,000
new hoarding cases reported in the U.S. each year, said Dr. Randall
Lockwood, ASPCA’s senior vice president of forensic sciences and
anticruelty projects. He said 20 years ago, fewer than five percent of hoarding cases include rescues and shelters. So what’s happened in 20 years?
Animal hoarding is not completely understood. Some feel they are saving animals – and in a sense, maybe they are. But conditions are sometimes so bad, the animals suffer. And typically animals neglected in that physical problems are not addressed. As a result infectious disease sometimes runs rampant. The hoarders don’t see what’s really going on.
Bruno was seen as a cat saint of sorts. She surrounded herself with
volunteers who enabled her and rallied around her when the 29-acre
Tiger Ranch Cat Sanctuary in Tarentum, Pa., was shut down. Some 700
people signed a petition seeking dismissal of the case. But that’s not how this case turned out – Bruno, 47, was sentenced to two years of house arrest and 27 years
probation. She was ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution and $21 a day
in electronic monitoring fees.
The question remains – why do instances of hoarding seem to be on the rise, and for sure cases of hoarding of individuals who are maintaining legitimate non-profits.