If you were to believe groups like Best Friends, the ASPCA, and the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals, hoarding is something that happens only outside of shelters. Hoarding is why rescue groups cannot be trusted and why pounds and shelters should not be second guessed when they decide to kill animals in the face of readily available lifesaving alternatives. Within the animal protection movement, hoarding has become the equivalent of “remember 9/11,” a tactic used to scare everyone into maintaining the status quo, allowing the power to stay where the power is, allowing the money to flow where the money currently flows, allowing animals to continue to be systematically put to death, even as the rescue groups offering to save those very animals are turned away.
There is no question that the effects of hoarding are tragic: animals wallow in their own waste, are denied food and water for long periods of time, do not get necessary veterinary care, are crammed into cages and do not receive walks or regular exercise, all of which results in tremendous suffering and death. Hoarding is cruel, painful, and abhorrent. But in the general population, hoarding of animals is the result of mental illness and therefore not as common as these groups would have us believe.
There is a form of hoarding, however, that is very common; hoarding that is epidemic, endemic, and at crisis proportions; hoarding that systematically neglects, abuses, and kills animals, all the while denying there is a problem and laying the blame elsewhere. This hoarding does not take place inside private homes, but rather in the very institutions which theoretically exist to protect animals: our nation’s “shelters.” Yet to this hoarding, the nation’s largest animal welfare protection organizations turn a blind eye.
Imagine a place where animals do not get fed. Imagine a place where animals with painful injuries do not get the veterinary care they need. Imagine a place where animals are stuck in cages and forced to wallow in their own waste. Imagine a place where the animals’ food is dirtied by cat litter and even fecal material. Imagine a place filled with dead and dying animals simply discarded in the garbage. These behaviors are the textbook definition of hoarding, but they also adequately describe conditions animals across this nation must endure when they enter their local “shelter.”
And no better example of this type of hoarding and the indelible harm it causes can be found than the bleak and foreboding situation faced by the animals of New York City, where all of these behaviors are standard operating procedure. And like many hoarders, those responsible for it seek to deflect blame by calling themselves a “shelter” and by claiming to be “rescuing” the very animals they neglect and abuse.
The dictionary defines “shelter” as a place of refuge where basic needs are provided. The dictionary also defines “rescue” as “to free or deliver from confinement, violence, danger, or evil.” But the New York City pound does not provide for the animals’ basic needs; nor do they deliver them from evil. In fact, the first time many NYC animals face danger and abuse is when they enter the very agency that is supposed to protect them from it.
And like most hoarders, these abusers have their enablers, their family and friends who know firsthand what is going on behind closed doors and simply look the other way. Best Friends, the ASPCA, the Mayor’s Alliance, and even Maddie’s Fund which is funding the Mayor’s Alliance, are deafeningly silent about these ongoing and well-known atrocities as reported by the recent ABC News undercover investigation. Visit the website of the Mayor’s Alliance and you’ll find the latest breaking news that “Santa Paws is coming to town,” but you will find nothing about the rampant neglect and abuse at the pound just down the street or what they intend to do about it. To the extent that problems are acknowledged, the Mayor’s Alliance simply blames it on lack of adequate funding, rather than a pathology which remains callous to animal suffering and, in fact, perpetrates it.
But at its core, the suffering of animals in New York City’s pound is not caused by a lack of resources, but a culture of cruelty and indifference. In fact, the hoarders at the City pound continue to turn down resources to help the animals who need it. They fire volunteers who would do anything to help animals at no cost to taxpayers. They make it increasingly difficult to volunteer, turning away animal lovers through bureaucratic roadblocks. They’ve made it harder for rescue groups to find out which animals are going to be killed. They have even punished rescue groups for promoting animals who face being killed, upset by the “inconvenience” of having to field telephone calls from potential adopters. And when news spreads that they are running out of food to feed the animals which would result in donations of it by animal loving New Yorkers, they deny it to save face.
In August, at the height of the busiest time of year, the hoarders at the pound even suspended the volunteer program, suspended the recruitment of rescue groups, and suspended new rescue groups recently approved from being allowed to save animals. In other words, they routinely choose death, over life, turning away offers of free assistance every single day.
Ironically, at the same time the pound bemoans its lack of funding, the ASPCA, Best Friends, and Mayor’s Alliance raise millions of dollars they claim will be used to save the animals there. So why isn’t it? The ASPCA is the richest SPCA in the country and one of the nation’s top 100 charities. In one year alone, it raised over 120 million dollars. Indeed, it takes in roughly 30 million dollars a year just based on its “Angel” commercial featuring the music of Sarah McLachlan, which promises to help animals in need:
In the arms of an angel
Fly away from here
From this dark cold … room
And the endlessness that you fear
You are pulled from the wreckage
Of your silent reverie
You’re in the arms of the angel
May you find some comfort here
But the ASPCA was no angel to three kittens who were underweight and dehydrated in its shelter when, rather than treat them, they sent them to the pound to be killed. They did not pull from the wreckage an eight month old puppy killed by the pound, a puppy who originally came from the ASPCA and who they were given the opportunity to save. Nor are they providing comfort to the tens of thousands of animals systematically killed by the pound every year, a killing often preceded by abuse and neglect, which they ignore. And when legislation is introduced to empower rescue groups to save animals from the hoarders at the pound, they, along with the Mayor’s Alliance, work to defeat it as a threat to their own power and wealth. And they are not alone.
Best Friends recently celebrated New York City at its national conference last month in Las Vegas. Calling Jane Hoffman of the Mayor’s Alliance a “featured expert” and allowing her to misrepresent her City’s achievements, Best Friends hoped to deflect recent criticism that Hoffman betrayed the animals of New York when she worked to kill Oreo’s Law — a quid pro quo to encourage her begrudging acceptance of their recently opened New York City office which will raise millions in donations on her turf. That is also why they worked to kill Oreo’s Law, legislation which would have empowered rescue groups to save 25,000 animals a year not just from the hoarders at the New York City pound, but other hoarding shelters across the state. The law would have rendered Hoffman’s position as the middle man between “shelters” and rescue groups obsolete. Sadly, Best Friends willingly sacrificed tens of thousands of animals per year so they could raise millions of dollars which, like the ASPCA, they will hoard in their already over-bloated coffers. Despite annual fundraising approaching 40 million dollars, Best Friends only rescues about 600 animals a year.
So despite tens of millions in Maddie’s Fund grants, over 120 million dollars per year in ASPCA fundraising, Best Friends raising even more, the Mayor’s Alliance’s false promises of a No Kill community (first in 2008, then 2012, and now allegedly in 2015), and one of the lowest per capita intake rates in the country, animals in the nation’s most prosperous and cosmopolitan city continue to suffer in medieval barbarity.
They continue to go without basic care, continue to go long periods of time without food or water, continue to be denied necessary veterinary care, continue to be crammed in cages with no exercise, continue to wallow in their own waste, and continue to be killed each and every day despite unlimited money, unlimited volunteers and rescue groups willing to help, and despite the biggest adoption market in the U.S. Why?
Because each of the large animal protection organizations operating in New York City are themselves that which they constantly tell us to fear: hoarders. And regardless of whether they are hoarding animals, power, or money, like all hoarders, they claim they do not have a problem. They claim that they are the solution. They claim they are the good guys. They are the ones who love animals. They are the ones who care. They are the ones who should be celebrated. Even as the trail of neglect, abuse, filth, and death leads straight to their doors.