Animal Hoarding on the High Plains

When you think about hoarding, you probably think of trash, boxes and food but there is another thing people are collecting, animals.
Amarillo officials are seeing cases of animal hoarding on a regular basis.
“Unfortunately the big ones we hear about on a weekly basis but we do have small cases that crop up on a daily basis or at least several times a week,” said Christy Fischer the Assistant Director of Animal Management and Welfare.
Fischer says they usually see cats and dogs being hoarded but that isn’t always the case.
“We picked up 99 animals one time from one woman in Dalhart. Turtles, turkeys, a goat that she kept in the garage,” said Jena McFall with the Amarillo-Panhandle Humane Society.
“Sometimes we will go in and there will be ten. Sometimes we go in and there will be 80 to 85. So obviously that presents a health risk and a safety risk for our officers as well and for anyone else involved out there,” added Fischer.
These situations can be extremely dangerous for the homeowner and officers responding to the homes.
Fischer says, “There are going to be a number of different hazards on scene, including just physical hazards like officers falling through the floors trying to get animals, but especially the respiratory hazards are an extreme risk.”
Along with the dangers to humans entering the home, the animals are often in bad health.
“Animals are usually malnourished, they are usually dehydrated. They usually have internal and external parasite problem,” said Fischer.
:”In almost every hoarding case I have ever been to there is at least one dead animal, that nobody knew was dead,” added McFall
McFall says the hoarder may not even notice the animals are dead or dying because they are so distanced from the situation.
In one case, McFall says a man became a hoarder quickly and lost control.
He already had a female dog then inherited a male dog, leading to litters of puppies.
“Two years later he has 37 dogs . It doesn’t take long at all which is why we preach spay and neuter so much,” said McFall.
After being rescued, officials work to make sure the animals can have a normal, healthy life, but it isn’t always possible.
“We try our best to get them out of here but unfortunately in some situations they are just too sick or even too dangerous for us to do anything but humanely euthanize them,” says Fischer.
Animal hoarding can lead to citations.
In some cases, Fischer says hoarders can be charged with misdemeanor or felony animal cruelty.
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