How many cats are too many? Do you think the government has the right to put a limit on the number of pets you can keep? Right now, in Rohnert Park you are permitted to have up to three dogs and up to four cats. Some would say that is generous and others rebel and want more. Of course, there are people who can’t properly care for even one animal and there are others who are dedicated and able to care for dozens – but should they be allowed to?
Everybody these days is a rescuer. The officer rescues an animal from the street. A rescuer takes the animal from the shelter. People adopting say that they rescued the animal. And so on. What is the difference between a true rescue and a hoarder? They both typically start out with the best of intentions and think they are helping. There have been story after story of “rescues” being charged with overcrowding, housing sick animals, poor sanitation and even complete neglect – including starvation. It doesn’t take much for someone with a big heart to quickly get overwhelmed with animals especially if they don’t spay and neuter and continue to have litters. Some of these people can’t say “no” and can quickly be guilted into accepting “just one more,” to the point that they are soon over their heads with expenses and the upkeep.
The main difference between a rescue and a hoarder is the willingness to actually let go of their animals. A rescue will adopt out and their goal is to be just a temporary holding place to give an animal that needs perhaps some medical care or behavioral modification time to improve. A few places are set up to be sanctuaries for those animals that aren’t adoptable, but unless you have the endless resources of an organization like Best Friends, you quickly become full and then have to shut your door to more animals. That’s hard to do when the calls for help keep coming in. Hoarders, on the other hand, believe that no one can care for the animals but themselves. They usually are on their own although occasionally they will have an organization name and will start off with volunteers to help care for the animals.
We recently had a call from a concerned person that she thought her neighbor had 100 cats in his house. When we went out to investigate the person he said “no way do I have that many cats. I only have 60.” He is a responsible person and has had all of them fixed so they were not reproducing and he was financially able to feed them and pay for any serious medical issues. Of course with that many cats they did not all get routine veterinary care and they did not all get along. His house was divided up to accommodate various groupings of the cats. There were a few litter boxes, but not enough and the smell of urine in the carpets was quite strong. We are working with that person to reduce his numbers but it brings up the question of how many animals we can leave in his care. After caring daily for 60 cats, even going down to 20 – which would seem like a lot to most of us – would be a breeze for him. It’s an interesting question and has lots of angles to consider.
How do you measure the level of care provided to an animal? How do you define what level of care should be legally required? People call and often complain that their neighbor never walks their dog. Can we require a daily walk? What if you have a dog that is very reactive to other people and animals? Is providing a nice backyard for exercise enough? We are in the process of updating the animal control portion of our Muni code and there are so many issues to consider. It’s not an easy process!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.