More than a dozen dogs were suffering in silence and there's really only one person to blame … their caretaker. A “horrible case of animal hoarding” is what the Humane Society of St. Joseph County calls a case their workers encountered this week.
Wednesday, 13 dogs were removed from a home in the 10000 block McKinley Highway. For more than a year, the Humane Society has been trying to help that homeowner. By Wednesday, there was no option except to remove the animals.
"The dogs we took were not thin, they were pretty fat, but they were in horrible condition," said Dr. Carol Ecker, Humane Society director. Many times, animal lovers love for their pets gets a little out of hand, so much so, the Humane Society said animal hoarding could now be considered a mental illness.
"Sometimes they're living in a very unhealthy situation like the gentleman (Wednesday), the odor in that home was so bad, it will knock you out,” Ecker said. “If it’s not good for a man then it's not good for the animals."
The dogs are still being examined, but so far, Ecker said the rescued Jack Russel terriers are doing OK.
"Most of the people who have this, really care about the animals and they feel very offensive and defensive if someone breaks their cycle of keeping the animals, so we don't think they should be prosecuted because they're ill,” Ecker said. The man in Wednesday’s case was not arrested.
Animal hoarding is defined as having more animals than you can handle. Many hoarders don't have the money or means to take care of each animal. "They're good people, they're well meaning but they usually have some type of dementia or mental disability,” Ecker said.
So what happens to these animal hoarders?
Adult protective services will do frequent checkups on them.
The humane society doesn’t take away all the pets away from the homeowner, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Most animal hoarders are emotionally fragile and very, very attached to their pets. Humane society workers will leave one or two pets with them so they don't feel hopeless.
In the past year and a half, the humane society has seen about eight cases of animal hoarding … an increase from previous years.
If you suspect any type of animal hoarding … contact the humane society in your community.