The Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Monmouth County Health Department, and the Howell Township Police Department appeared at a Maxim Southard home in Howell, N.J. Sunday morning with a search warrant and removed at least 100 animals in and outside of the home.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Mercedes Lopez, 56, faces multiple charges of animal cruelty. Chief Victor "Buddy" Amato of the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty told the press:
“When we got there, there was one cat literally dying in front of us. There was also another dog who had no use of his hind legs and was just dragging himself around. Everywhere you looked there was a cat.”
Authorities will return on Monday to remove the rest of the animals. Reported to be at the home were 50 roosters, 40 dogs, 20 rabbits, 1 raccoon, and at least 100 cats. There were at least 25 cats in the basement; many had upper respiratory and eye infections.
Lopez is expected to be charged with failure to provide sustenance which includes grooming and veterinary care, and failure to provide shelter for all of the animals.
Hoarding is a very complex issue and can be recognized by family and friends when animals are living in unsanitary environments and are not receiving proper medical and nutritional care. People who become hoarders really do think they are doing the best for animals. The Humane Society of the United States estimates 250,000 animals a year are victims of hoarder situations.
So what can you do if you suspect a family member or a friend is an animal hoarder?
Animal Planet.com suggests the following:
- Intervene and get help for the animals. Use community resources and get the local humane society and police involved.
- Keep in touch with the animals once they are removed from the home and use social media to find foster homes and adoptive homes. Many of these animals suffer from malnutrition, disease, and other poor health issues.
- Volunteer at a local shelter.
- Donate to a local shelter and participate in fund raising activities to provide funding for drastic cases.
- Educate about hoarding. Failing to provide a sanitary environment and providing proper medical and nutrition is considered animal cruelty. Don't let hoarders downplay the seriousness of the crime.
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