Broken people are those who fail to meet societal norms. They make up many of the hoarders and homeless people of our nation. They live beside us and provide little impact to our society; until, they drag other species into their nightmare.
In every community that I have served, my staff and I have had to deal with animal hoarders. It is the condition in which these animals are kept that force the need for our intervention. Before responding to the residence of a hoarder, it is necessary that animal control officers have access to the proper equipment upon enter the house. The equipment should include latex gloves, foot covers, disposable coveralls, face mask (with the ammonia/methane cartridge), and lots and lots of flea spray. It doesn’t hurt to carry a methane detector to give you probable cause to enter the residence.
In Gainesville Florida, we came upon a hoarding case in which the fire department’s hazmat team refused to enter the house, even in their protective suits. Sometimes it gets that bad. Also in Gainesville, we had to deal with one of the largest cat hoarding cases in the United States in which we had to seize nearly 700 cats. Yes, it gets that bad.
In Salt Lake County, we had quite an effective system in dealing with hoarding cases. We would arrive on scene with law enforcement personnel and health department personnel. Hoarders can give you a difficult time accessing their residence, unless you have a health department official condemning the property. The health department takes lead in returning the house to “living conditions,” that includes removing animals.
In Salt Lake County, I had to deal with a guy living in a delivery truck with five dogs. The conditions inside that vehicle we not fit for man nor beast. I tried to use the guys dogs as leverage to get help for him and his dogs. I could not break through his mental illness. I eventually was forced to seize his dogs and he dedicated his life to calling me every five minutes to condemn me for my actions. He was one of the few people that I encountered that I could find no work arounds. People are allowed to be like him, but laws are in place to prevent him from taking his pets down that path.
The animal welfare profession is a career of working with pet owners to make the lives of their pets better. Because we are working with people, we are going to encounter broken people who will show that they are not capable of taking care of themselves, let alone another animal. It is important to prepare for broken people and their pets.