Monday, September 20, 2010

Animal Hoarding and the Adoption Question

Over the weekend, a friend e-mailed me this link posted by Kimi Peck, who has been under investigation numerous times for animal hoarding in southern California. Her questionable activities have been documented on a couple of different sites, most notably the website Save the Chihuahuas. Though the content of Ms. Peck's letter in general is a little, shall we say off-center, it was one comment in particular that caught my attention:

"One of Tufts University definitions of a hoarder
A hoarder doesn't adopt out animals. No one can take care of the animals better than they can."

I was actually unable to find anything on the Tufts website stating explicitly that animal hoarders do not adopt animals out, though the ASPCA does stipulate that with so-called rescue hoarders, "Little effort is made to adopt animals out."

This, to me, is a very important point in the debate over whether or not someone is actually an animal rescuer or an animal hoarder. In this post, I talk about Alice (not her real name), a woman living with over fifty dogs and a multitude of cats and farm animals at her small home in Oregon. Alice was the go-to foster home for an organized, 501(c)3 animal rescue, which meant that many of her dogs were adopted out regularly. However, the fact that they were adopted out had little to do with Alice's efforts; Alice focused primarily on getting more dogs. On more than one occasion, I can remember her contacting Dave and I upon receiving the latest PTS (Put-to-Sleep) list from the California shelter we worked with regularly.

"We want all of them," she would tell us. "We could get homes for every one of them - we don't want a single one of them put down."

Naturally, the rescue coordinator at the Merced County shelter was thrilled to hear this. And it was true that the animal rescue itself had a good adoption record; it was also true that there were a surprising number of dogs at Alice's house that, she assured us, could never be adopted out. There was a compulsive Lab who would fetch from one end of the property to the other for as long as someone would throw for him; there was a mysterious Doberman living inside who had attacked Alice and the other dogs on numerous occasions for taking up space on the bed; there were Pugs with asthma and mutts with allergies. None of these dogs, we were assured, would ever find someone to care for them the way Alice did.

My own experiences with Dave were not dissimilar. Before I came onboard, his rescue partner was an extremely motivated rescuer who was adept at making connections and getting animals adopted out. She was active online, quick to post photos and descriptions, and was a general whiz at the virtual side of animal rescue. Dave did the home visits and got more animals. Lots and lots more animals. The animals' care while at the farm was negligible, something Dave justified because "it's just a quick fix - they come in, they go out. It's better than being dead."

Since that particular rationale never really did much for me, I informed Dave when I came on board that I wanted to be more hands-on than his previous partner: I didn't want to be on the computer all the time. He could handle the networking and adoptions. I did the cleaning, enrolled with Animal Behavior College and started reading up on training, administered medication, developed nutrition plans for some of our more immuno-compromised charges. Our adoption rates were abysmal, though Dave assured me that this was just because we were in transition. We were taking a break; rehabilitating the animals we had. In the meantime, we did a couple of transports and thus could increase the numbers of animals we said we had successfully placed by simply driving them from one rescue to the other, with minimal interaction in between.

I am not an expert on animal hoarding, but in my experience, this is what I have found with the rescue hoarder:

(1) Their successfully placed animals (Kimi Peck claims she has adopted out more than 5000 Chihuahuas in her rescue career) are significantly inflated and corresponding records to back up such claims notably absent;

(2) If adoption rates are high, it is because someone else within the organization is driving those adoptions; were that individual to leave, placement rates would likely plummet;

(3) These placement rates often take into account things with which the actual individual had little involvement: adoption drives by other members of the organization; transporting animals for other rescues; and, in Kimi Peck's case, animals that were actually seized by the authorities and forcibly placed in the hands of other animal rescues;

(4) There are an infinite number of excuses as to why an animal may not be adoptable, and therefore must be added to the roster of permanent charges. Dave had five dogs that he called his own, however we had about a dozen others that were deemed unadoptable, and no efforts were ever made to adopt out the cats, though he would think nothing of bringing in another dozen at a time to live out their lives at the rescue. This may have been admirable had we not constantly been struggling with flea infestations, upper respiratory epidemics, and a complete lack of socialization opportunities.

So, there you have it... The rescue hoarder does adopt out animals, however - in the words of Gia Logan, who runs, "Hoarders do adopt out, but it may be one every couple of months. (Legitimate) rescuers work at adopting out, every weekend, showing their animals, etc... Even in the book on Barbara Erickson (Inside Animal Hoarding, by Celeste Killeen) she adopted out... But they collect more than they adopt. A (legitimate) rescue keeps the numbers manageable, their animals healthy."


  1. I assisted at Kimi Peck's shelters on numerous occasions. The animals in her care were all as healthy as they could be. I have seen the hundreds of adoption records, as have the Burbank Animal Control officials and many others, and I have also participated in several hundred home checks on behalf of Chihuahua Rescue. You obviously do not have all the facts and have probably never met Ms. Peck. Thank God the animals she found homes for did not have to suffer the fate that awaits so many in the shelters because of people like you. Your focus should be on the everyday killings in the animal shelters and the overpopulation and not bent on disrupting the efforts of successful rescuers. All of Ms. Pecks rescues were spayed and/or neutered. That is a huge step towards population control. What have you and people like you done to make a difference?

  2. Great post - thank you! 'Terry May' sounds like Kimi Peck.

    Here is the latest story on Kimi Peck (September 25, 2012)

    By: Cris Ornelas
    BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -

    Serial animal hoarder Kimi Peck has opened another, what she calls, animal rescue.

    23ABC has been following Peck since 2009, when her neighbors in Tehachapi started complaining about all the dogs on her property.

    When it was over, Peck surrendered more than a hundred animals and said she'd never run another animal rescue again.

    A Facebook page has Southern California animal activists up in arms.

    It’s for Chihuahua Rescue Beverly Hills. It claims to rescue sick and unwanted Chihuahuas. The page says the rescue was founded by Peck, and there is a link to her website.

    "The websites are still up collecting cash and dogs asking for sponsorship of dogs," said animal activist Julie Feiner.

    Feiner said she was duped by Peck in the past and is afraid for any animals Peck might be caring for.

    Peck ran a dog rescue in Tehachapi that was shut down by the county. The Humane Society said it took 150 dogs from the home in July 2010.

    "They have nightmares today about what they witnessed there -- the complete lack of veterinary care, very horrific conditions where the animals never leave the cages," Feiner said.

    When those dogs were taken more than two years ago, Peck insisted she wouldn't open another rescue.

    "Never. I will never ever get back into animal rescue again," Peck said.

    "Since 1997, she has been legally forced to shut down eight of her rescue kennels," Feiner said.

    We checked with the city of Beverly Hills to see if Peck had in fact opened a rescue there.

    Officials said that kind of thing is illegal in their city and no one by that name has applied for or registered anything with them.

    "Where in Beverly Hills is this rescue group? She doesn't even have a licensed kennel," Feiner said.

    23ABC made repeated attempts to contact Peck for this story. So far she hasn't responded.

    Officials with the city of Beverly Hills said now that we have alerted them to the facebook page, they will be on the lookout for Peck

  3. Kimi's original rescue's address was Beverly Hills, but there was never, to my knowledge, an actual kennel there. I'm pretty sure this address was just where people were supposed to send donations because the woman who did her books was there. I adopted many dogs from Kimi,long before she started having problems with hoarding. She started out as someone who dedicated her life and her money to help animals and it just got out of control.At some point she just didn't see what she was doing was wrong and she continued to get more and more dogs even when she couldn't care for them properly.I wish her well but hope she never has any more pets.