We may think of animal hoarders as wacky people like the Cat Lady with six felines. But in New Mexico, police have entered dwellings with upwards of 50 cats and dogs. An Otero County man had 208 dogs.
The scene is uncomfortably familiar: Dozens of sick or starving animals with no food or water, a “home” with floors covered in filth, stacked cages of animals, and scattered carcasses.
Local authorities pick up the animals and haul them to the local shelter, where many must be euthanized; others may be rehabilitated and adopted.
Invariably, the owner of the horror show claims to be an animal lover who rescues unwanted pets. The man with 208 dogs started out as Mission Desert Hills Sanctuary for Dogs, and descended into animal hoarding.
It’s a nationwide problem – so much so that it even has its own organizations and websites. One is the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) at Tufts University, which spent 10 years studying the problem. They learned that anybody can be a hoarder.
Veterinarian Debra Clopton, of Edgewood, insisted she loved her 49 dogs; last week, a jury convicted her of 22 counts of animal cruelty in Santa Fe District Court. Clopton testified that her doublewide trailer was a place for dogs with nowhere else to go. She said she was treating them successfully.