By Michelle Rivera, [email protected]
We all shake our heads and agree that the dog and cat
overpopulation crisis is a terrible, terrible shame. Well, it certainly
is, but do you believe that you can single-handedly stop this tragedy?
Some people do, and their solution is to keep extremely large numbers of
animals in homes that are ill equipped to contain them. Authorities call
these people "collectors".
We all know one. The eccentric "cat lady" or the
"savior" with crates upon crates of dogs of every size, shape and color.
And even though these kindhearted, benevolent souls undertake this
massive effort with the best intentions, most find themselves
overwhelmed with labor-intensive, non-stop activity just to keep the
Collectors are unable to support the idea of humane
euthanasia as a form of controlling overpopulation, and so scores of
animals are "rescued" only to deteriorate in filthy, overcrowded and
inadequate living spaces. The stress and lack of sanitation in these
private homes or so-called "no-kill" shelters are conducive to
malnourishment, disease and over-sedentary lives. The collectors
themselves can become overwhelmed with unexpected legal and veterinary
expenses as well, and the health and welfare of the animals they have
taken in slowly deteriorates. The results can be shocking.
Just last week, authorities in New York City arrested a
woman and charge her with forty counts of animal cruelty after finding
at least forty cats dead or dying in her apartment. Some of the bodies
had been placed in her freezer because, as she explained, "She simply
couldn't bear to part with them." Most were dead or dying of Feline
Upper Respiratory Infection, a common cold to you or I, but potentially
fatal in felines. A course of antibiotics for the sick ones, and a few
doses of interferon for the remaining cats may have arrested the illness
before it got to epidemic proportions, but these medications cost a lot
of money, and with forty cats to care for, the expense can be quite
substantial and prohibitive.
And here is an excerpt from a PeTA Cruelty
"New York state investigators called to the Animals Farm
Home found hundreds of starving, mange-infested dogs crowded into dark,
unventilated barns. Fed only moldy bread and water, the dogs were
cannibalizing each other out of hunger. More than 175 of the animals
were too ill to be saved, and more than 200 required emergency
veterinary care. "
Our hearts go out to these people because we know that
they truly believe that they love animals. And in some respects, on some
level, they do. They go into a kind of denial and they don't recognize
starvation and disease even as the animals suffer before their very
eyes. Indeed, it could happen to any one of us who have ever looked into
the eyes of a desperate animal and had our hearts and spirits broken
because we just can't take him or her home.
Yet, I always become just a bit wary when I hear the
words "I love animals" because I know that this phrase could mean a
medley of things to so many people. I much prefer to hear "I respect
animals" because keeping mass quantities of animals in cages or even
loose in small dwellings is pretty darn disrespectful, degrading and
humiliating to the animals. They are worthy of so much better.
However, companion animals forced to exist in stacked,
tiny cages without the benefit of loving camaraderie and socialization
suffer abject depression. Their misery and loneliness is as acute as
that of a laboratory animal. Sometimes, there is a fate worse than
death, and these animals are viable proof of that.
According to PeTA, "... collectors allow animals to take
over their homes and lives so completely that they lose contact with
friends and family. Collectors often find themselves isolated and
psychologically dependent on their animals, and they need and cling to
them to the animals' detriment. "
Veterinarians and psychologists who study "animal
addicts" have found that this is classic substance abuse behavior. Some
of the traits that alcoholics and drug addicts share with animal addicts
include repetition of the addictive behavior; excuses for the behavior,
denial that their personal, physical and environmental conditions are
unclean, the belief that they are being persecuted or misunderstood; the
presence of financial supporters who feel they are helping a "good
cause"; denial that the addiction exists; isolation from those friends,
family or co-workers who are not "into animals", and sometimes, even
abuse of animals through dereliction.
What You Can Do
• Let your local humane society/animal rights organization or animal
control authorities know if you suspect there is a collector in your
neighborhood. Together you may be able to work out a solution.
• Aggressively lobby your local politicians for
legislation that requires licensing, inspection, and regulation of both
private and public animal shelters.
• When you hear of a huge confiscation of animals by
local authorities, show up at the shelters and offer to walk, groom and
play with the animals; shelter workers are usually overwhelmed in the
face of a large confiscation.
Don't always believe that No-Kill shelters are the best
place to surrender an animal. Accept that humane euthanasia is a
necessary evil in the world today.
Do not "judge" the collector once you have identified
them. Win their confidence with understanding and approval, and offer to
take some of the animals into protective custody so as to alleviate the
burden. Once you have them, you can place them in foster homes,
coordinate their adoption with local authorities, or have them tested
for terminal diseases. [Editor's Note: Encourage, demand, do whatever
you have to, but persuade the collector to spay/neuter so that the
animals they do have, don't multiply.]
Remember, that collectors are just people like you and
I. They just never learned to say "no", and their hearts, if not their
judgment, is in the right place.
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