Hoarding: Dozens of dogs, reptiles removed from Scottsdale home

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In yet another case of animal hoarding, the Arizona Humane Society removed 46 animals from a Scottsdale home Tuesday, including more than two dozen small-breed dogs and about a dozen reptiles.

Police were first called to the house in the neighborhood northeast of Scottsdale and McDowell roads by the homeowner herself, but that call had nothing to do with her animals. Rather, the woman, whose name has not been released, believed her significant other had violated an order of protection she had against him.

That initial call from the homeowner turned into something unexpected -- an apparent case of animal hoarding.  Responding officers called conditions inside "repulsive."

When police responded to the woman's domestic-situation call Monday, they discovered that she had dozens of animals and that the inside of the home was layered with feces and urine.

Because Monday was a holiday, they were unable to do anything about the situation right away.

Scottsdale police returned to the home Tuesday with AHS personnel and together they removed 29 small-breed dogs, including Shih tzus, chihuahuas, Maltese, dachshunds and Lhasa Apsos. They also seized four snakes, 11 tortoises, and a few turtles.

"We find hoarders love their animals, but don't realize they're loving them to death," said the Humane Society's Bretta Nelson.

The animals appeared to have been well-fed, but it was not immediately clear if they were in good health. A spokesman for AHS speculated, based on the conditions inside the house, that the dogs probably had not had the proper vaccinations.

Neighbors who talked to 3TV's Kristine Harrington said they had no idea the homeowner had such a menagerie in her home.

The Scottsdale Fire Department sent a hazardous-materials crew to check the air quality, but those on the scene said there did not seem to be the obvious smell that tends to permeate the areas surrounding homes of animal hoarders. Video from the scene, however, showed AHS Emergency Animal Medical Technicians™ wearing masks over their noses and mouths and those who actually went inside the home said the stench was intolerable.

The woman will likely face charges of misdemeanor animal neglect, but that decision ultimately will be made by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

In most states, including Arizona, animal hoarding is generally prosecuted under the laws that cover animal cruelty. According to the Animal Legal & Historical Center at the Michigan State University College of Law, penalties "can include fines, animal forfeiture, and jail time." Because of the high rate of recidivism, there are many cases in which convicted hoarders are limited in the number of pets they can have or even outright banned from owning animals in the future.

There is no set number of animals a person has to have to be classified as a hoarder, according to the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, which was founded in 1997. It has to do with the level of care the animals receive and the conditions in which they live, as well as the owner's perception of the situation. Many, if not most, animal hoarders refuse to acknowledge when the animals are unhealthy or the living conditions -- their own, as well as the animals' -- unsanitary.

The website Pet-Abuse.com, which maintains a nationwide list of animal-abuse cases, lists 36 hoarding cases in Arizona since 1997. Four of those alleged incidents are from 2011. The site lists a total of 283 animal-hoarding cases in the U.S. this year.