The Times Union reports (8/18/10) that scores of cats (and two dogs) have been rescued from an Arbor Hill home by a group of activists. The mission was executed in direct violation of Albany law, as the building had been condemned on July 21st. In addition to the 20 cats first retrieved by animal control officers, the band of volunteers were able to trap another 70 or so. Less than 10 are considered feral (wild cats with domesticated roots). The former tenant, described as helpful by a rescuer, knew the cats’ names and origins. The animals are being treated and readied for adoption.
But what exactly is the larger point of the TU article? To fete an act of civil disobedience? To remind us of urban blight’s ugliness? A decaying 820-square-foot den with over 90 animals living in squalor and not one reference to hoarding and the criminal/moral implications thereof? Collecting Animals is a grave psychological/sociological problem that is only recently receiving attention from scientists, government agencies, and mainstream media.
How does one accumulate a giant mass of suffering animals under the collective nose of neighbors, the landlord, and the city? I briefly owned an apartment in Albany, and my building was meticulously inspected by three firefighters (with the smallest of infractions duly noted). The TU describes a “filthy interior, which included large cages stacked about the living area and thickly matted with cat hair and other debris.” A volunteer remarked: (CBS 6) “I personally walked through the house… there were cats in rafters trying to seek safety from the inches of feces on the floor. Thousands of flies swirled around and the stench was suffocating, even with a mask. [There were] discarded containers of empty cat litter, litter boxes overflowing with excrement. No water bowls, no food bowls, just scared and sick animals trying to survive.”
Benign intentions and mental illness aside, this is animal cruelty. It is one of the worst local hoarding cases in recent memory; animals suffered (and probably died) on this woman’s watch. In short, she is an abuser.
Animal Rights is an abstract phrase that is oft criticized, marginalized, and misunderstood. But did these cats not have a right to exist free of a human created hell? This is precisely why we need an animal abuser registry. The former resident of 198 Orange St. should never be permitted more than two or three animals for the rest of her days. She should also be subject to ongoing inspections with increasing fines and penalties (perhaps community service at a shelter). The recidivism rate for hoarders is almost 100%. If allowed, she will do it again. She needs to be protected from herself, but more importantly, defenseless animals need our protection from her.