The Valley’s animal hoarding problem

Almost every week there’s a local story in the news about an animal hoarding situation. The stories are led with anywhere between 20 to 100 animals taken into custody by local animal shelters — beyond their space and labor capacity.

At the end of July, the Animal Welfare League in Trumbull County took in over 90 animals from a house in Greene Township. Just a little over a week earlier, dozens of dogs, cats and over 40 snakes were taken from a man living in a Youngstown home. If you go back week by week, you’ll find a new story with dozens of suffering animals.

The problem is so prevalent Animal Charity officials started calling them “zoo houses.” 

These animals experience some of the most extreme neglect. They have little to no access to clean food or water, they’re covered in fleas and ticks, sleeping in their feces and sharing small or limited spaces with dozens of other animals. 

Animals in the Greene Township situation were trapped with the remains of other animals who died from the harsh conditions — several animals had to eat the remains for survival.

The conditions of the houses these animals are rescued from are too hazardous for animals or people to live in. 

Once animal charities and shelters rescue the animals, it’s a long journey for physical recovery if the animals are not too far gone. The recovery is expensive and time-consuming and straining already limited resources for shelters. Not to mention if the animals will ever mentally recover from their trauma.

In June there was a call for city and county officials to do something to address animal cruelty, abuse, neglect and hoarding in the area. WKBN reported the meeting, and officials say that in the month of June, they’ve taken over 100 animals of 19 different species and spent over $100,000 caring for these neglected animals.

That number is closer to 500 animals rescued in the area just this year —meaning 500 animals have suffered through the most egregious type of animal cruelty.

There are some laws on the city and county level to catch the problem, such as having animal registration, vaccinations and tether laws, but more is needed. People who hoard animals are not taking their pets to the vet or registering them with the county. Animal advocates say there is a severe lack of enforcement for these rules.

According to officials, there used to be a call every once in a while but now they get multiple calls a day about animal hoarding. 

The suffering of these pets is real and overwhelming, and many people ask themselves, ‘How can someone do this to animals?’ The answer is that these individuals who hoard animals are also suffering. Hoarding animals is often a sign of mental illness.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, animal hoarding is a complex issue that encompasses mental illness, animal welfare and public safety concerns. ASPCA said these individuals start out with the best intentions for taking care of animals but cannot even provide the minimal amount of care for animals. 

Even though there have been steps to bring mental illness to the center stage of discussion, there doesn’t seem to be enough resources or a proactive way to bring available resources to people who need it. Animal hoarding also seems to carry more shame around it because of the direct harm it causes animals, making hoarders less likely to seek help for their animals and themselves. 

Instead, animal welfare and charities rely on others to report the problem, which is often beyond what is considered manageable.

To address the suffering of the animals and individuals, stay vigilant for any cases of neglect or hoarding. Report them and think about donating your time, money or resources to animal welfare agencies while they try to provide the best care for all animals.