No-kill shelters & “rescues” are failing at half the rate of 2016, but the reason appears to be growing reluctance by animal care & control agencies to undertake mass impoundments
LITTLEROCK, California––Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control public information officer Don Belton waited until Halloween, October 31, 2022, to disclose a raid five days earlier on an alleged animal rescue facility in Littlerock, Antelope Valley.
The October 26, 2022 raid brought the impoundment of 195 cats, 43 dogs, and six dead animals, an appropriately nightmarish scenario for the Day of the Dead, celebrated in Mexican culture on November 1-2, 2022.
Surprisingly low total for biggest mass dog/cat impoundment of 2022
Belton and Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control director Marcia Mayeda unfortunately declined to name the alleged animal rescue facility, thereby putting half a dozen other animal rescue organizations in the Littlerock area under suspicion of being the perpetrators.
The most remarkable aspect of the Littlerock Valley raid, however, was that the 238 dogs and cats impounded, ten months into 2022, appeared to be the biggest number impounded in any alleged dog/cat hoarding case of the year.
Some years have brought multiple impoundments of more than twice as many dogs and cats.
The previous known high for 2022 was the 200 live dogs and remains of 20 others reportedly impounded from Dogs Rock Rescue in Heard County, Georgia, on August 27.
“No kill” rescue shot dogs?
‘Some of the skulls had holes in them commensurate to a possible .22 (caliber),” bullet, Heard County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Dan Boswell told media.
Arrested in connection with the case were Wendy Brewer, 50, charged with two counts of felony aggravated animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts of cruelty and abandonment, and Deanalyn Reing, 56, believed to be facing similar charges.
“Deputies said Brewer had recently taken about 40 dogs from the Clayton County animal shelter,” reported Doug Evans of Fox 5 News in Atlanta.
“A van used to transport some of the dogs for a weekend adoption event was found on the property still packed days afterward. It had never been unloaded,” Evans added.
Reing, meanwhile, had significant relevant priors.
Formerly heading an organization called Southern Dogs Rescue, Reing was caught in Waterbury, Connecticut on October 1, 2011, with a van full of dogs suspected of having parvovirus whom she was trying to sell for $300 apiece.
Released without charges in that case, Reign was in April 2014 convicted on five counts of cruelty to animals in the second degree in Lee County, Alabama.
Appealing the conviction, Reing was again convicted on all five counts, this time after a two-day jury trial, in February 2015.
Reing was sentenced to two years on probation and judicially ordered to get out of animal rescue. In July 2015, however, Reing was caught in Stratford, Connecticut, hauling 29 dogs in a truck and trailer. The dogs had no ventilation in 96-degree heat.
198 dogs taken from suspect with prior horse neglect case
The next highest number of impoundments of dogs and cats in 2022 were 198 dogs taken from Karen Plambeck, 59, of Sherrard, Illinois, on August 15.
“Court documents show that in October of 2019, Plambeck was charged with animal cruelty in Mercer County, Illinois, for keeping a halter on a horse for so long that it became implanted into the horse’s face,” reported Matt Holderman of WHBF.
The Plambeck case thus far in 2022 brought the most seizures of dogs and/or cats from any one individual not advertising himself or herself as a rescuer, animal shelter, breeder, or trainer.
Only three other U.S. cases of alleged dog-and-cat hoarding in 2022 to date have involved more than 100 animals, along with two cases of hoarding rabbits and two cases of hoarding a variety of animals, of whom most were birds.
In many years there have been impoundments of 100-plus dogs and cats almost every month.
2022 may bring record low hoarding impoundments
Teresa Lynn Chagrin, longtime animal care and control issues manager for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, may keep the closest track of mass neglect cases of any U.S. observer other than ANIMALS 24-7.
Comparing her data with the case data ANIMALS 24-7 has collected from other sources, ANIMALS 24-7 found just 24 cases of alleged rescue hoarding surfacing in 2022, involving 830 cats and 431 dogs, and only 22 individual hoarding cases leading to impoundments of ten or more animals, totaling 348 dogs plus 510 cats.
These are the lowest totals that ANIMALS 24-7 has found for the first ten months of any year in the 21st century, just 10% as many as in 2013, the previous lowest year of the century.
Overall, 2022 appears likely to end with fewer mass neglect cases, and fewer animals impounded in those cases, than any previous year since ANIMALS 24-7 began logging mass neglect cases in 1982.
Why have hoarding case impoundments fallen 90% since 2016?
But this does not seem to signify any sort of success, since animal shelters around the U.S. are so full they are turning away dogs and cats, advising callers to release strays where they were found, and to try to rehome unwanted pets themselves.
Many of these turnaway animals end up in custody of “rescue hoarders,” whose own caretaking capacity also tends to collapse under the stress of trying to practice “open admission” without euthanasia.
Shelter/rescue failure rate
Consider that in 2016 nearly 5,000 dogs and cats, 1,000 horses, and countless small mammals, reptiles, and birds were impounded in the U.S. just from failed animal shelters and “rescues.” And consider that this was barely half the total intake from hoarding cases.
In 2016, U.S. animal shelters and “rescues,” usually with nonprofit status and social media pages, collapsed at the rate of more than one a week––a record pace, up sharply from the 2015 shelter or “rescue” failure rate of about one every 10 days, which was the previous record.
Currently, U.S. animal shelters and “rescues” are now failing at even less than the failure rate of the 2000-2009 time frame of about one every two weeks, albeit at still much more than the failure rate of the two decades 1980-1999, when far fewer “rescues” were in operation.
Reluctance to bust
Are U.S. shelters and “rescues” really ten times better at looking after the animals in their care than only six years ago?
Or are mass media reporting “rescue hoarding” cases only a tenth as often?
Almost certainly not.
What appears to have changed, though, is that overcrowded animal care-and-control agencies, eager to hold down their euthanasia totals, may be much more reluctant than in 2016 to bust “rescues” and quasi-“no-kill shelters” that are also often among their “rescue partners.”
Entities such as Dogs Rock Rescue help animal care-and-control agencies to relieve the stress on their own facilities resulting from trying to achieve the 90% “live release” rate that qualifies them for “no kill” status, at least according to the definitions promulgated by the Best Friends Animal Society and Maddie’s Fund.
If busted, however, the animals from “rescues” and quasi-“no-kill shelters” contribute to the animal-care-and-control shelter overcrowding problem.
Humane societies without animal care-and-control housing contracts, meanwhile, are mostly themselves trying to achieve or maintain “no kill” status, and are therefore less and less available to accommodate overflow from hoarding busts.