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.
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.