While hoarding can be the results of mental illness, most of us are not trained psychologists, therefore, reaction to animal neglect and abuse is often direct, especially when the abuse, neglect or cruelty costs an animal it's life.
Recently posted on our facebook page was a "note" entitled Rescuing the Rescuer.
We are reposting that here for our non-facebook followers and supporters. PLEASE, if you recognize any of these signs in a family member, friend, co-worker contact authorities immediately. Lives could be saved from one simple anonymous action.
A dog is found along the roadside. A kitten is pulled out of a sewer. A beloved companion can no longer be cared for and is turned into a shelter. It only gets a certain number of days to find a new home before it is euthanized.
This happens everyday inside the world of the animal welfare industry. And somewhere each day someone is moved by a situation just like this and steps forward to save a life. Maybe they volunteer to provide socialization, maybe for transport, maybe even provide a temporary home until a permanent one can be found. Whatever touched their heart or reached into their soul that day has drawn them into the world of animal welfare. Most people have no idea what lies behind the facade of rescuing an animal.
An Animal Rescuer is a person who rescues something from harm or danger. Their mission should be to save the life. Unfotunately sometimes that missiion stops after removing the animal from it's current situation and placing it into another. Whether that situation will save it's life or not, will depend on the experience and the ethics of that rescuer.
More and more, individuals are calling themselves "animal rescuers". And more and more of these individuals are finding themselves on the other side of the law. Good hearted, well intended animal lovers who set out to help animals are now in positions of being charged with neglect and abuse, even cruelty. These actions come in many forms, and aren't always about "beaten", "starved" or "abandoned" animals, but sometimes about animals in the homes of professed rescuers who have become or are becoming emotionally unbalanced to the degree that bad judgment overshadows good. And because these people are our friends, our neighbors, our peers, we become blind to the signs and symptoms of what is known as a Rescue Hoarder. The term "hoarder" can be deceptive. Most media coverage shows "hoarders" as people living in deplorable conditions, sickly or dead animals, and lot's of em. But that's just ONE phase of hoarding. There are signs of mental instability long before a hoarder ever gets to the above description.
Rescuing an animal is much more than getting it out of a "bad" situation and into a better one. It requires the person to be knowledgable about animal behavior, have some education on veterinary care; to be able to provide for the animal physically, mentally and financially, and to take full responsibility for its care and welfare until it is placed in the hands of a permanent caretaker or euthanized. It also means that the rescuer has to be aware of their own limitations and experience working with animals so they do not take on more than they can properly care for.
A good rescuer will also comply by state laws. They will know and understand the laws of their state, and work within the system to protect the welfare of the animal even if they don't agree with them. They will conduct themselves in a professional manner, and they will understand and be able to recognize an animal's health and mental needs. They will be able to provide at all times quality mental health care; food, water, housing, medical care, proper housing segregation and they will understand the behavior of the species.
Sometimes a rescuer will become so emotionally involved they become delusional about their own actions. Signs of a rescue hoarder can be blatant or very subtle. The actions of a rescuer hoarder can detoriate over a long period of time causing a change in not only behavior but often times their personality. Subtle signs of a rescue hoarder can be:
- an increase in intake/outflow of the rescued animals viewing them as numbers rather than lives.
- increased injuries or death to the animals in the rescuers care
- denial of responsiblity for those injuries or death that happen in the rescuers care
- misconceptions about animal animal behavior
- deterioation of the animal's physical condition
- an inability to accept responsibility of their own actions that caused injury or death to the animal
- deterioration of the rescuer and/or animals living conditions
- inability to let go of the animal either through adoptions or euthanasia
- becoming withdrawn from activities remaining inside the house or; becomimg increasingly vocal about injuries or deaths that happen in their care, (both are extreme signs of a rescue hoarder)
More often than not a rescuer hoarder will become so emotionally attached to the animals, feeling an overwhelming responsibility to save lives that they can no longer differentiate between a happy and healthy animal versus one who is in pain and/or suffering.
So who rescues the rescuer?
It is our responsibility as individuals to speak up for those who can not speak for themselves. Whether the person is a friend, a family member, a co-worker or a neighbor, if you recognize any of the above signs or symptoms with someone you know who has animals or rescues animals, you need to take action!
The first step is to contact an authority. You will be asked numerous questions, but in most cases you can remain anonymous. Your concerns will prompt an investigation which will then determine if the person is in compliance with state laws or not, and whether or not they should remain as a rescuer. This does not mean your friend or family member will be hauled off to jail. But it does mean they will receive the proper help they need and the animals will not die because you, as an observer or participant chose to do nothing.
Whether it's a friend or family member, it's better to intervene in the early stages of hoarding to prevent prosecution for neglect, cruelty and abuse later on. Good hearts and well intentions do not necessarily mean that one is qualified to be in animal rescue. And every state requires a license of some sort to act as a rescuer, which also provides inspections to make certain that animals are being properly cared for at all times!
If you know of someone, or see the above signs and symptoms in someone you know, please take action immediately, before it's too late, for both the animal and the human!
To express concern or file a complaint visit or call:
Iowa Department of Agricultural and Land Stewardship
Not sure if what you are seeing IS a problem? Contact RVAS and we can help you determine that, and what your next steps should be...all to save lives!