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 animalhoardinginfo.blogspot.com, "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."