The local news has been buzzing for the last day with the news of a local woman arrested on suspicion of felony animal neglect. According to the animal control officers on the scene, she had about 60 dogs in a 750 square foot 2 bedroom house.
Now here’s where it gets fuzzy: this wasn’t your typical animal hoarder situation. The woman in this case runs a rescue out of her house, and by all indications was genuinely trying to rehabilitate and adopt out the animals. In fact, the reason animal control found her was due to a tip by a person who had tried to adopt from her.
The comments following the article are heated; some call her vile and scream for her head. Other people who have interacted with the woman defend her as a person who poured her heart and soul into helping these pets and was doing the best she could. The animals (mostly boxers and chihuahuas) were living in crates and had not been under the care of a veterinarian for their many health problems. They were not being cared for appropriately.
I do not for a minute doubt she truly was trying to help. A person doing all of this by themselves, with no outside help or other volunteers to share the burden, could very easily become overwhelmed- especially these days when relinquishments are at an all-time high. Many rescues can’t bear to turn a pet away, and she seems to have been no exception.
As we all probably know, anyone can designate themselves a “rescue”. They run the gamut from well-funded, organized groups to one-man operations like this one. Somewhere along the way, this woman lost sight of the fact that she was in over her head. She neglected to realize her limitations, and the pets paid the price while awaiting a new home.
Despite all of this, even while listening to the animal control officer detail the conditions of the house, I felt a deep pang of pity at the sight of this woman being led off in handcuffs. I have heard and seen horrific stories of animal hoarders, pets ankle-deep in feces, covered in parasites, with dead animals rotting in the corners of the room. This was not the case here.
The pets had respiratory infections, skin infections, and suffered from lack of attention and care. Bad? Yes. Did they need to be removed? Yes. Did she need to be removed in handcuffs, with cameras rolling? I’m having trouble with that one.
It’s easy to speculate without all the details, so I concede there may be a lot of missing information. Maybe because I see people like this every day-on a smaller scale, but the principle remains. Good people who have gotten in over their head with their pets, who are unintentionally neglecting them while trying to do the right thing, who need a little guidance to get back on track.
I feel terrible for the animals, who have gone through a whole heck of a lot already and are now in the process of being dispersed to local shelters. But I can’t help but feel for her as well, someone overextended who might have done OK had she scaled back a bit more, paraded on the local news like a common criminal.