Friday, December 4, 2009
In late October 2009, Animal Humane Society Humane Agent Keith Streff was called by the City of Colombia Heights to assist in a case regarding nearly 40 animals being kept in unsanitary and unsafe conditions in a single residence. Nine complaints had been filed with the city against the owner of the animals from 2008–2009 prompting an Anoka County judge to issue a search warrant to inspect the home and care of the animals.
Each year, hundreds of animals are rescued by Animal Humane Society’s humane agents, the only two full-time professional humane agents in the state. Animals brought into its care include exotics, wildlife, agriculture and companion animals. The most recent case is one that is all too familiar for Agent Streff.
“Cases of animal hoarding are fast becoming common reports on the local news,” he said. “But these cases have been taking place in our communities for years. I’ve been investigating these types of situations since I began my work as a humane agent 22 years ago.”
Streff entered the Colombia Heights home with officials on October 28, 2009. During the investigation they found garbage, debris and a significant amount of animal urine and feces throughout the residence. A total of 36 felines and two canines were living inside the home which was later condemned.
Photos showing the condition of the home and some of the animals found there.
Due to their findings, the animals were seized by officials and placed in the care of AHS pending a disposition hearing. There they received food and shelter and began necessary treatments after AHS veterinarians performed physical exams on each to evaluate the health of the animals.
These animals were rescued pursuant to Minnesota statute 343. Review animal welfare law in Minnesota.
The cats were found to be dehydrated, malnourished and suffering from numerous conditions including upper respiratory infection, ear infections, flea infestations and urine scald. Most were fearful, timid and lacked socialization. These types of health and temperament conditions are nearly always found in animals that come from these environments.
One of the dogs, an 18-year-old mixed breed, was suffering from visible tumors that were painful to the touch, arthritis and ulcerations from prolonged contact with the ground and lack of mobility.
The second dog, a young Staffordshire terrier, was found to be healthy but with aggressive tendencies.
On November 17, 2009, Anoka County District Court determined that the owner’s “history of hoarding animals in unsanitary conditions demonstrates that she is not capable of providing the necessary care for even an otherwise healthy animal.” Those rescued on October 28 were released to AHS.
Read the findings and outcomes of the disposition hearing.
“These cases are very difficult. We rescue these animals from marginalized conditions, oftentimes from people who deeply care about them but don’t realize their good intentions aren’t keeping their animals healthy and safe,” said Janelle Dixon, president and CEO of AHS. “The animals then come to us with unfortunate psychological and physical scars and we have to make difficult decisions about their future.”
Nineteen cats have responded well to treatment and are currently being placed in AHS adoption centers. AHS is also working with its partners through the Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare (MnPAW) to place five more of the cats. However, despite the partners' desire to help, they may only be able to take one cat due to the high number of animals already in their care.
View cats available for adoption.
After five weeks, three cats remained in poor health despite continual treatments. Three others were so severely damaged by their previous living conditions and were deemed not placeable due to their behavior. All six were humanely euthanized on December 1. Six others are being reexamined, but all assessments up to this point are showing they are too unsocialized for placement.
Veterinary staff determined the Staffordshire terrier behaviorally unsafe after five weeks of exhibiting aggression and not passing a behavioral exam. He was humanely euthanized on December 1. They also determined the elderly mixed breed to have little to no quality of life and have provided an opportunity for the owner to visit with the dog one last time.
Animal hoarding is a very serious condition and one that must be reported immediately to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals. Please take the time to learn more about this condition and report animal hoarding to the AHS Humane Investigations team at (763) 489-2236 or your local law enforcement agency.