The New Hyde Park Hoarder House
Thursday night, May 20th 2021. It begins with a series of frantic phone calls. A woman known to the rescue community has not responded to a well check from a friend. Another concerned person enters her home and finds her in distress…. but she also stumbles upon the horror documented in these pictures.
The original estimate was 50-60 cats, but the numbers kept climbing and eventually totaled 80! We found cage upon cage of cats, stacked in every room. No food or water for days, filthy litter boxes, clutter everywhere, and loose cats in the home running around in a terrified frenzy for food and then retreating to their hiding places. All flea ridden, emaciated, and begging for help. Mothers with newborn kittens trapped in fabric enclosures, sick animals in need of vetting.
From that point on, our Give Me Shelter Project volunteers went to the house to tend to the cats every single day for six harrowing weeks. They vetted, medicated, segregated, re-designed living space for air flow and cleanliness and worked endlessly with assessing and attending to very traumatized cats including many that we learned had been housed in small cages for years.
The Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter was a tremendous help as they ultimately took 40 of the cats and kittens. Give Me Shelter Project took possession of the other 40. As of this writing (November 2021), we have about 20 cats remaining that need placement in adoptive homes. The costs associated with this project were extraordinary and thankfully, a good deal of it was offset by the generosity of those who donated to this effort. However, the medical bills have exceeded those donations and continue to mount for some that have continuing medical issues.
There are a number of lessons learned from this experience:
- It has renewed our effort to shed light on the importance of having emergency directives in place for the care of your pets. See this section of our website.
- We launched a “buddy up program for pets and each other” so that people who live alone can have someone “check in” on them daily by a simple text message.
- Situations can change drastically over time as happened with this hoarder. Five years prior, she only had a few cats that she adopted from a local shelter. They adopted to her again two years later and assumed the living conditions were the same. In fact, during those two years, her numbers grew and she was indeed hoarding cats by that time. In light of this, we strengthened our adoption procedures so that prior adopters must provide a new application and go through the same process that they did originally. We urge all rescue groups and shelters to do the same and to microchip all cats adopted that are adopted out.
A HUGE THANK YOU to those who volunteered, donated, and supported this effort in countless ways. There are far too many to name. This did indeed “take a village” and together, we did “move a mountain”.