Reported impoundments of allegedly neglected animals by U.S. law enforcement agencies fell in 2013 across the spectrum of neglect situations, to caseloads not seen since the 1990s––but the reasons for the drop are unclear.
More successful interventions to prevent mass neglect might be one explanation. Alternatively, lawsuits and social media bashing from no-kill militants might have made animal control agencies reluctant to impound animals who might require euthanasia, or at least be difficult to rehome. A related factor may be that many agencies in early 2013 were still coping with the near record numbers of animals impounded for alleged neglect in 2012.
After impounding 10,498 dogs, 4,392 cats, and 1,325 horses in response to neglect complaints in 2012, U.S. law enforcement agencies in 2013 impounded a combined total of just 8,801 dogs and cats, plus 870 horses.
Failed animal shelters and rescues accounted for 2,441 total dog and cat impoundments in 2013, a 60% drop, and the fewest since 2005, when 2,627 dogs and 2,072 cats were seized from failed shelters and rescues.
Failed animal shelters and rescues accounted for 4,196 dog impoundments and 1,824 cat impoundments in 2012––half the total number of impounded dogs and cats, and nearly 1,000 more animals than were seized from negligent breeders.
Raids on dog and cat breeders impounded about 2,600 dogs and 100 cats in 2013, a decline of about half from 2012. Puppy mill raids impounded 4,868 dogs in 2012, close to the totals from 2010 and 2011, but well below the record 10,000 impoundments from puppy mills in 2009, and the previous record 8,000 in 2008. Before 2008 the record for impoundments from puppy mills was 4,500 in 2005.
187 cats were impounded from breeders in 2012.
Reported pit bull impounds for alleged neglect fell to 232 in 2013, from 924 in 2012. The 2012 pit bull total included 298 pit bulls from the Spindletop Refuge in Willis, Texas. The Spindletop Refuge collapse in July 2012 was by far the largest failure on record of a facility specializing in pit bulls.
But more Chihuahuas––942––were impounded in 2012 neglect cases, mostly involving breeders. This eclipsed the previous recorded high of 293 Chihuahuas seized for alleged neglect in 1993. No high-volume Chihuahua impoundments were reported in 2013, though Chihuahuas were often among other small dogs seized from breeders.
Neglect cases involving neither breeders nor failed shelters and rescues accounted for 3,425 dogs and cats in 2013, down 11% from the 3,815 seized in non-breeder and non-shelter or rescue cases in 2012. The ratio of cats to dogs in 2013 appeared to hold steady at about 62.5% cats, 37.5% dogs.
The 870 allegedly neglected horses impounded in 2013 were the fewest since ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton began logging neglect cases in 1982. Horse slaughterhouses were reportedly close to opening in Oklahoma, Missouri, and New Mexico during the latter half of 2013, after six years in which no horses were killed in the U.S. for human consumption. This may have encouraged killer buyers to gather horses who might otherwise have been neglected––or perhaps not, since the options of selling unwanted horses for slaughter in Mexico, Canada, or to be rendered into animal food had remained open. The 2013 Farm Bill cut off USDA authorization to inspect horse slaughterhouses. Whether taking the prospect of domestic horse slaughter off the table will have any effect on horse neglect frequency will only be evident toward the end of 2014.
Horse impoundments fell from 2,915 in 2011, when a record 829 horses were seized from Montana neglect defendant James Leachman, to 1,325 in 2012, the third lowest total since 1982. The lowest previous horse neglect totals were 1,270 in 2010, and 1,350 in both 2005 and 2006. The highest total before 2011 was 2,375 in 1996.
(See also “Handling hoarders,” http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/04/18/handling-hoarders/; “U.S. Supreme Court recognized right to seize hoarded animals,” http://www.animals24-7.org/2006/01/18/u-s-supreme-court-recognized-right-to-seize-hoarded-animals/; and “Animals in bondage: the hoarding mind,” http://www.animals24-7.org/1999/01/18/animals-in-bondage-the-hoarding-mind/.)