On May 5, 2014, repeat hoarding offender Kimi Peck surrendered 53 dogs to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. The dogs were being kept in a fifth-wheel trailer in overall poor conditions. This same individual has surrendered over 140 dogs in previous incidents, and has gathered numerous animal-related citations for the past 20 years. A Facebook page is dedicated to keeping the rescue community updated on her activities. Peck has since been arrested in Colorado for animal cruelty.
The story has been repeated all over the state for the past month. As of June 1, 2014, the Cheyenne Animal Shelter still has some of the dogs Peck surrendered. Thanks to an amazing community response, the animals were able to receive much-needed veterinary care. Some were adopted into the community, and others await their forever homes from no-kill rescues throughout the state. Few hoarding situations turn out as well.
Why are animal hoarders able to get away with so much?
Animal hoarders are a big problem everywhere. Wyoming has seen several large surrenders from alleged hoarders in past years, including one involving 150 cats in Park County, and another 30 cats in Casper. A 2010 incident in Sheridan, Wyoming, resulted in the surrender of over 30 dogs that were being kept in a minivan. The dogs were underweight, had worms, and some had discolorations and bald spots from sleeping in their own waste. Included in the number were several 4-month-old puppies.
The real question animal lovers want answered is, how can they get away with it? Many of these alleged hoarders are never charged. In most cases, they’re given citations and asked to surrender the animals in question. Why aren’t they arrested? Unfortunately, the reasoning both helps and hurts the animals.
If animals are seized in a criminal case, animal control and shelters cannot do anything with them until the matter has been decided in court. With the caseload in Wyoming, this could mean months during which the shelters can’t give the animals significant care, can’t release them to rescues, and can’t adopt them out. Even worse, the shelter has to dedicate kennels to those animals instead of ones that they can actually help. Though criminal charges might put a stop to future incidents, it means disastrous financial and space considerations in the meantime.
Surrendered animals become the property of the shelter immediately. If they’re given voluntarily, then shelter staff can get to work right away with vet checks, immunizations, spay/neuter, and finding new homes. Rescues can step in and help because the dogs are the sole property of the shelter to which they were surrendered. Unfortunately, the conditions of voluntary surrender almost always state that charges of animal cruelty or neglect won’t be filed against the perpetrators. With no animal cruelty conviction, hoarders are free to re-start their collections.
Sadly, the only way to help hoarded animals in these situations is to let their keeper go free. The result is a nasty cycle that imposes untold costs in both taxpayer dollars and animals’ mental well-being.
In most cases, the best way to protect animals from hoarders is to practice responsible pet ownership, thoroughly vetting anyone involved in rehoming or buying a dog. Dogs offered for free are the most likely to fall into bad situations like these. Before rehoming a dog, check with local animal control authorities and do a home check to help ensure that this doesn’t happen to your dog. Take steps to prevent dog theft, microchip your dog, and always keep a clear picture of the dog and any identifying marks in case it does go missing.