Categories: Animal laws

Making cat hoarders pay for the services of animal rescue organizations

It occurred to me that when cat hoarders are prosecuted and their animals seized by the authorities and placed in animal rescue centers, the cost of the services provided in caring for the animals, rehabilitating them and rehoming them should be paid for by the people who put the animals in that state: the hoarders.

In the state of Philadelphia in the USA they have an Act which deals with this issue. It is called the Cost of Care Act (2013) (Act). Unfortunately, I was unable to find the verbatim wording of the statute and therefore am reliant upon a newspaper article.

Photos: Courtesy Bucks County District Attorney’s office

In this instance a couple, Ann Reddy and Warren Muffler, descended into cat hoarding resulting in the usual abuse of the animals. They were prosecuted under beefed up state laws regarding animal cruelty and face a catalogue of criminal charges.

Nicole Thompson a Humane Society police officer for the Bucks County Society for Protection of Animals (SPCA) was involved in the rescue of the animals from the apartment. She said that the Cost of Care Act allowed them to deal with the matter more efficiently.

The Act allows rescue organizations to make an application to a court for a specific type of restitution namely the recovery of the cost of caring for the rescued animals. Some of these prosecutions take months and during this time animal rescue centers are paying out substantial expenses while being unable to recover them. In addition, as I understand it, legal ownership of the cats can only be transferred to them though a court order which I presume is usually made at the end of the case. This places a heavy burden upon small rescue organizations with limited resources.

In this particular case the Bucks SPCA spent more than $53,000 caring for the 31 seized cats and 12 kittens. This included the expenses of housing and feeding the cat as well as emergency surgery. The expenses would have climbed perhaps to an intolerable level but for an application by a law firm made pro bono to the court requiring that Reddy and Muffler reimburse the costs of the shelter. The judge ruled that they should and made an appropriate order.

Although I’ve neither seen the law itself nor the court order I’ll presume that the order to pay the costs was linked to a transfer of ownership of the cats to the shelter. As the hoarders were unwilling or unable to pay after a 10 day period, ownership of the cats were transferred to the SPCA which allowed them to adopt them out thereby minimizing the costs. Muffler and Reddy remain liable to pay the $53,000 expense bill if they are convicted. The matter of shelter expenses were dealt with within the criminal proceedings at a relatively early stage. This must be welcome by rescue organizations. I’d don’t know how prevalent this process is in the USA in other states.

As I understand it, this law allows both an expeditious transfer of ownership of the animals to the rescue organization and recovery of their costs. This appears to circumvent the conventional legal routes such as restitution and gets around some problems of prosecuting animal hoarders because sometimes these cases are regarded as quite minor without sentencing including imprisonment on conviction. Therefore they do not warrant resources being allocated to them.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I am 70-years-of-age at 2019. For 14 years before I retired at 57, I worked as a solicitor in general law specialising in family law. Before that I worked in a number of different jobs including professional photography. I have a longstanding girlfriend, Michelle. We like to walk in Richmond Park which is near my home because I love nature and the landscape (as well as cats and all animals).

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  • Here's a typical example of the kinds of people throughout the USA who "rescue" cats these days.

    http://www.dnj.com/story/news/2018/07/05/2-arrested-after-rescuing-more-than-100-cats-murfreesboro-camper-paws-police-animal-cruelty-adoption/759729002/

    As stated in the article, "Suspects had been 'rescuing' the cats."

    The shelter that "saved" them the 2nd time is likewise also "rescuing" cats in the very same way. Hoarding them with nobody wanting them.

    What happens in this case? Do they all pay themselves? Do the 1st rescuers pay those who took their rescued cats from them to only put them in another terminal no-kill hoarding situation? Do those who "rescued" them the 2nd time pay the original rescue people? The "shelter" that rescued them the 2nd time has gone "no kill" so they will keep these unwanted cats isolated in tiny cages and in any spare traps they have for a long long time. There is hardly anyone left who wants to adopt cats anymore in the USA, the market is glutted beyond imagine. Everyone who wants cats are already full-up on cats. You've even claimed that yourself by stating you won't take in more than 1 cat. Why should anyone else do what even you won't do? You can't blame people for not adopting cats that they don't want. Not even the feral cats in this situation above will be adopted as barn-cats because farmers already have more cats than they need, they already destroy all the excess barn-cats on their lands because nobody else wants those either.

    Any unwanted cats are just going from one terminal hoarding situation to another terminal hoarding scenario today -- thanks to the no-kill movement. (There are far worse things than death -- this is clearly one of them.)

    So who pays who?

    • I rescued horses for over 20 years and never asked for a damn dime from anyone. The same with any cat.
      You make a point I have many times. There are worse things that death for an unwanted animal. The difference is I don't feel the need to be hateful to express those feelings.
      We have several very successful barn cat programs in NM along with businesses that adopt and care for semi feral cats to police vermin.
      All the farmers and ranchers entering or inheriting the family business usually have degrees in agriculture and animal husbandry. Now to be fair we have a lot of wanna be low life white trash that likes hunt and kill anything that offends their eye just don't confuse a farmer with a piece of human waste hiding out on a few acres in the country.

    • What you are describing is human behaviour. You are describing the sort of mess that humans get into when they are irresponsible. It is not an ideal situation. Although there is a big difference between a cat hoarder who effectively abuses their cats through neglect and a cat rescue centre and ensuring that they are healthy before seeking adopters. You cannot equate one with the other.

      As you are describing a human mess through irresponsible behaviour I would like to see you criticise humans and not the cats. I suspect that you are one of those people who prefer to see cats killed in large numbers and focus on that rather than focusing on human behaviour.

      • I wonder how many other visitors left your site permanently from you editing their words for them--WITHOUT PERMISSION. Disgraceful and despicable are two good adjectives for your actions and values. Not to mention it clearly shows everyone just what kind of a manipulative and deceptive low-life that you truly are. Good-luck with that. But then you already know how you're destroying your own website, I don't have to remind you of how and why.

  • I wanted to add a large number of these hoarders are what we call judgment proof. The law does not allow the garnishment of some government payments like Social Security. Most people even if there is a judgment the payment is based on their income which for many means some chump change every month. That's unlikely to change because of our bankruptcy laws and the protections they offer our citizens.

    • The weakness is can they pay? Often they can't and if they can it is a fraction of the amount of the court order.

      • I'm a bit heartless on restitution and think it should be applied equally despite income or the source.
        When the numbskull backed over my car in a near empty parking lot and the only reason i had her name was because more than one person got her license plate number told us on the phone we were stuck with the 500 deductible because she had no insurance and we couldn't touch her disability check. That same thinking applies to a lot of people with limited income. You can't touch my money so screw you. I see the same thinking applied to animal abuse cases all the time.

        • Perhaps bailiffs should be employed to sell items owned by people on welfare (benefits) to release cash. Often these people are cash poor but asset rich (TVs, smartphones, computers and pets etc.)

          • I just don't think being poor is necessarily an out to being responsible. As to the disability craze in our country I'm not interested in making life harder for those that truly cannot work and support themselves. I have had co workers that were blind in wheelchairs and dying of cancer. I don't like being political here but the word disability as far as sucking on the taxpayers has become a joke. My friend with the ES cat has to endure regular inspections of her apartment to continue to have her rent subsidized. Many of these horrible beyond words hoarder cases could have been mitigated if landlords required regular inspections of their property and neighbors and relatives stopped looking the other way.
            I am not in favor of selling anyone's pets. In US bankruptcy courts even a horse can be excluded from creditors sales in some cases. Dogs and cats unless there is a kennel or cattery enterprise are never touched.
            I am unclear on why someone can have a 800 dollar phone but no car insurance.
            Ultimately shelters and private rescues and public shelters bear the brunt of the cost when animals are abused or allowed to breed.
            One final word. I can't begin to count how many times I've hear the excuse he/she was just an old man/woman and didn't know any better. Or they have OCD or anxiety none of those mean you don't know right from wrong. A child doesn't know better and must often be taught. When we are adults we are responsible unless the courts decide otherwise for our actions. OCD , anxiety or simply getting older does not make you too stupid to see what you are doing is wrong.

          • I fully agree. I think the UK takes the biscuit when it comes to a generation on welfare payments. And it causes so many problems. Some people in the UK grow up with the idea that it's okay to never work. It's a lifestyle choice in the UK. That mentality is very dangerous to the health of the individual and the nation. The level of irresponsible behavior is high in the UK and a lack of respect and sensitivity towards others.

  • Many states have this in some form however the deal cutting goes like this. Surrender the animal and there will be no penalty.
    There is another argument that goes to the tune if you make negligent pet owners or hoarders pay for the inhumanity they have inflicted on innocent animals they'll just dump them or refuse to reach out for help.
    I watched on show on Hoarders where a cat literally died and there were bodies of kittens and older cats everywhere including the freezer and still everyone had to walk on tiptoes. All I could think was the woman should have been in handcuffs.
    We tend to think that hoarding is a mental illness and it probably is. However simply having a mental illness does not mean the person does not know right from wrong. In the end her dump was fixed up to livable I believe and she was allowed to keep x amount of cats. She should have been barred by the court system from having any pets.
    Very little was said about the fate of the cats hauled out of that house. Most had some medical issues from years of neglect.

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