NEWS AND COMMENT: I have said before, almost a year ago, that people who want to keep a large number of cats in their home should be subject to specific and customised fire regulations. Cat hoarders who have 10 or more cats in their home are treated by the local authorities as ordinary residents, no more and no less. They are not subject to any specific fire or general regulations.
This is incorrect because they are the caregivers and owners of a large number of animals. These animals are in jeopardy of neglect and in particular jeopardy of fire because their owners are often hoarders. Hoarders have chaotic homes. They have homes chock-a-block full of rubbish and cats. They are fire hazards. They jeopardise not only themselves and their animals but neighbors too.
Cat hoarders tend to be poor at maintaining their home. This is probably partly because they have mental health issues causing the hoarding. There are specific regulations for large homes that have been divided up into small apartments. In the UK these are called houses of multiple occupation. They are subject to quite strict regulations including fire regulations.
Converted homes of multiple occupation are no different to apartment blocks or condominiums in America. Condominiums are subject to specific fire regulations.
The failure of local authorities both in the US and UK to place fire regulations on people who occupy their home with more than 10 cats whether they are hoarders or not, appears to me to be a loophole in fire regulation laws.
When a fire breaks out in a home where there is cat hoarding it causes devastation. Invariably the people escape and almost invariably they leave behind their cats. They have to escape of their own accord or be rescued by firefighters. Many will die in the fire.
This is exactly what happened recently in Woodbury, Orange County as reported by ABC7. One hundred cats were rescued from the home of a cat hoarder. The hoarding hampered the rescue by firefighters as this was an extreme hoarding situation.
Note: This is an embedded video from another website. Sometimes they are deleted at source or the video is turned into a link which stops it working here. I have no control over this.
The cats have been taken to the Woodbury Animal Shelter. Some cats escaped themselves. It is hoped that they will be found and taken into care. Some won’t be and they’ll become strays, struggling to survive.
It is unclear how many cats died in the fire. It is probably fair to state that a significant number did. If it had been a prerequisite under fire regulations that hoarders have to have sprinklers in their homes this would have prevented the fire or severely restricted it or even better, it would have probably prevented the cat hoarding in the first place. This is because the expense of installing sprinklers would put a dampener on hoarding cats. Cat hoarders are often financially stressed.
I have read many stories of cats dying in house fires. And on too many occasions these are homes of multiple occupation, not of people but of companion animals. It is time to protect them and to stop accepting cat hoarding as a necessary evil of society.
Nothing is done to prevent cat hoarding. Perhaps it is too difficult to enforce any laws but I would disagree with that. Cat hoarders are often exposed because of the smell which emanates from their homes. This is the smell of ammonia in urine which permeates the entire home producing a very powerful odour which escapes from windows even when they are only open very slightly. Neighbours pick up on this and often times they report the matter to the local authorities.
Note: My careful research indicates that no customized fire regulation standards exist in the USA or UK for homes in which more than 10 cats live. If I am incorrect, please leave a comment asap. Thanks.
Postscript 1: there has been some discussion in some jurisdictions of limiting the number of cats that a person can own. This would be hard to enforce but it is another way of protecting companion animals in homes where there are too many.
Postscript 2: I have suggested that 10 is a maximum but it could be a smaller number. I’ve chosen this number arbitrarily as a reasonable upper limit. Some people might suggest that 5 is a better upper limit.