Animal hoarding cases can put strain on Humane Society

Saucer is one of the cats rescued in the June 29 New Market hoarding case. Courtesy photo by Melisa Miller-Piselli

After the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office rescued 31 dogs and 32 cats from a building  in New Market on June 29, the Humane Society of Shenandoah County took in 16 of the cats and one dog.

Melissa Miller-Piselli, president of the Humane Society of Shenandoah County, said animal hoarding cases like the one in New Market can prove to be a strain on the nonprofit organization because they are unplanned and because the animals that come in from the cases often have severe health problems.

“It really drains our funds because of the amount of money that it takes to get the animals ready for adoption,” Miller-Piselli said.

Typically, in animal hoarding cases, the buildings where they are housed have high levels of ammonia that can be unhealthy for the animals as well as for humans. In the New Market case, a veterinarian who went to the scene had to euthanize 12 dogs and one cat, according to a Facebook post by the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office.

Due to the high levels of ammonia in the New Market case, many of the cats arrived with upper respiratory and skin issues, Miller-Piselli said. The animals in cases like these, she said, can’t be adopted out or moved to temporary shelters until they are checked by a veterinarian and are healthy enough to be moved.

The organization has a network of local shelters and temporary housing throughout the state that it sends animals to once they are ready to be moved. That network, Miller-Piselli said, is crucial for the group to be able to take in animals.

“If we didn’t have those [other shelters]…I wouldn’t have ever agreed to take in those animals,” she said.

The organization is able to adopt out some animals through its Facebook page and through events the group holds.

But Miller-Piselli said that it can be difficult to adopt out cats in hoarding cases because older cats are often seen as less attractive to prospective pet owners. The same can be said of pit bulls and hounds, she added.

“The little fluffy dogs, they get adopted quickly,”  she said.

There are also some cases where the animals cannot be adopted out as long as the case is ongoing. However, Miller-Piselli said the Humane Society of Shenandoah County does not take the animals in those cases.

“We step in once we know that we can put the animals in our foster home,” she said.

The organization receives animals from hoarding cases fairly frequently. According to Miller-Piselli, this is their third hoarding case this year.

In January, the group assisted with 38 cats after the Sheriff’s Office took 70 cats from a house in Strasburg, according to the group’s Facebook page. In a Fort Valley animal hoarding case in June, the organization took in 19 cats.

Each time, Miller-Piselli said, some animals stayed at least one month. It wasn’t until the end of February or the beginning of March, she said, when the last cats from the situation in January finally left the Humane Society. Miller-Piselli said the group still has two of the cats from the June case out of Fort Valley.