MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Here's a real life mental ailment - pet hording. In Lancaster, California, just north of Los Angeles, felony animal cruelty charges will be filed against a serial animal hoarder. Farm animals and nearly 200 sick and starving dogs were rescued from the man's trailer home and yard. It's one of the biggest hording cases in years. It's not usual, though. Every year there are hundreds of cases of abusive animal hoarders reported across the country.
Gloria Hillard has more.
GLORIA HILLARD: Visitors to animal Acres, a 26-acre animal sanctuary, rarely go undetected.
Mr. FRANK ALLEN (Farm Manager): That's the head goose. And he's letting everybody know that there's humans around.
HILLARD: Humans, their cruelty and their kindness, it what defines this place. Frank Allen, the farm manager, is showing me the more than 100 animals that were recently rescued from the animal hoarding case. From inside a small barn, a half-dozen sheep eye us warily.
Mr. ALLEN: So these poor babies, when we started giving them water, fresh water and food, they went absolutely bananas. You know, they were starving. There was almost 200 dogs there that are now no longer there in the freezing cold, rain.
HILLARD: Those dogs are now here at the A Wish for Animals sanctuary.
Ms. TONI EAKES (Sanctuary Founder): This is Mitzy. This is Fiona.
HILLARD: Toni Eakes, the founder of A Wish for Animals, helped coordinate the rescue with animal control investigators.
Ms. EAKES: A lot of these animals are very afraid. And they don't get that way for no reason.
HILLARD: The hoarder, who has previous infractions, was living in a trailer on property in the high desert area. In their investigation they found many of the animals were ill and dehydrated. All were living in squalid conditions that were common to animal hoarding cases. Two dogs on the property were found dead under a wheelbarrow. One of the rescued dogs, a small Shepherd mix, is sitting on Eakes's feet.
Ms. EAKES: I mean this one right here wouldn't have ever let you touch her. This is lady. It just - it's just sometimes removing them out of them out of that type of environment is the beginning.
HILLARD: Hoarding, according to the Humane Society of the United States, is prevalent nationwide. Between 700 and 2,000 cases are reported every year. Deputy D.A. Debbie Knaan, who oversees the animal cruelty division of the L.A. district attorney's office, says hoarders often believe they are helping rather than hurting the animals.
Deputy District Attorney DEBORAH KNAAN (Los Angeles): The reoffending rate is extremely high. Because they usually will go out and collect more animals, even after you confiscate all of those animals, because they can't help themselves.
HILLARD: Knaan says hoarders acquire animals by picking them up as strays or finding them in shelters or livestock auctions, and often people just given animals to them. Evidenced by the stacks of case files on her desk, there's no lack of unwanted and abused animals, she says.
Deputy D.A. KNAAN: People need to understand that the animals really are vulnerable, and they truly are at the mercy of human beings.
HILLARD: If so, then these animals are the lucky ones.
(Soundbite of barking dog)
Ms. EAKES: And that's Cali and Mrs. Cleaver over there.
HILLARD: Instead of ending up in already overcrowded shelters, the dogs at Toni Eakes's sanctuary are being mended and groomed in hopes of finding them all homes. In her arms is a small golden ranch dog with the face of a deer.
Ms. EAKES: She needs a very special home. Don't you, Xena. And she's just such a sweetie, and she's gorgeous.
HILLARD: For NPR News, I'm Gloria Hillard.
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