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Humane Society of Yates County: Rescuing animals takes more than good intentions

• Humane Society of Yates County challenged by Animal hoarding rescues
• Bail for Paws fundraiser this Friday

One of the oldest charitable causes in our region and one of the most needed, is the Humane Society of Yates County and their home base, The Shelter of Hope. The tide of animals in need rises with the extreme overpopulation of cats and dogs in the United States, and is a growing challenge for the staff and volunteers of HSYC.

In the highlights of the annual report, HSYC Executive Director Bonnie Dillon states, “For the year of 2017, we were able to bring 379 animals through our doors and into our hearts. We provided a safe and secure environment, food, and medical care, and ensured that the senseless breeding ended before they went on to homes. Each animal we brought in has a story and I can say that our staff and volunteers did our best to hear that story and understand. We were fortunate to send 366 companion animals on to new beginnings. A new record in the HSYC’s history.”

Animal Hoarding Cases

While only a portion of their total intake of animals, one of the greatest challenges any shelter faces is when an animal hoarding case must be dealt with. Dillon explains that in recent months, a Dundee woman voluntarily came to them asking for their help. This lady, in her 60s, living alone in a mobile home, and with limited financial means, had, through her own good intentions and kind-heartedness, come to have 39 cats living in her small home. Her situation was compounded by that reputation, and her property became a drop off point for less kind people seeking to rid themselves of unwanted cats.

As fond as this lady is of all the cats, she was unable to bear the financial burden of even basic medical care of so large a number. But still wanting to provide for animals she thought no one else would care for, it took her a long time to admit she could no longer bear the responsibility for them alone. And that, Dillon says, is when she contacted the Shelter of Hope.

As of January, 22 of the cats have been brought into the shelter two at a time, with 17 remaining at the woman’s home. The HSYC has sent supplies and vitamins to improve the remaining cats’ nutrition and health. Their goal, working together with the woman, is to reduce the number of cats in the home to five as a manageable number for her to care for, and to clean up the home, making it a healthier environment for both the cats and the woman.

Dr. Glenn Fahnestock, of Eastview Veterinary Clinic, says he deals with hundreds of animals every year from hoarding situations, though he says dog hoarding more often attracts the attention of law enforcement due to noise complaints. Eastview works closely with the HSYC to deal with these cases. Fahnestock says, “In these dense populations, care is not optimal. The animals are often deprived of socialization and difficult to handle, with greater anxiety than the average feline.” He adds that financial issues of the owners often mean the animals have not been vaccinated, much less spayed or neutered, leading to even greater numbers. “They get off to a really bad start that can lead to lifelong health issues, requiring continuous care,” says Fahnestock.

There is a higher prevalence in hoarding cases of viral infections such as feline immunodeficiency virus, feline leukemia, coronavirus, and the feline infectious peritonitis that can follow; as well as parasites such as ringworm and fleas. All of these contribute to a shorter and sadder life for these animals.

Dillon says that in this case, despite the concentration of animals, most have come in fairly healthy, with upper respiratory and dental issues being the chief issues. However, given the sudden influx of such a large number of cats, the financial strain put on the shelter’s finances is still considerable. Eastview sends vets to the shelter two to five times a week, and at greatly reduced rates. A recent online fundraising effort through CrowdRise successfully raised $2,500 to help in the care of these cats, but more will be needed as more cats arrive.

According to the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, animal hoarding is defined by:

• An individual possessing more than the typical number of companion animals.

• The individual is unable to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death.

• The individual is in denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household and human occupants of the dwelling.

The full definition and more info can be found at

According to research conducted in Brazil recently, animal hoarding may fall into a distinct mental condition from other object hoarding disorders. The ASPCA reports that early research pointed toward a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but newer studies and theories lead toward: attachment disorders in conjunction with personality disorders, paranoia, delusional thinking, depression, and other mental illnesses.

Some animal hoarders began collecting after a traumatic event or loss, while others see themselves as “rescuers” who save animals from lives on the street.

Information from the ASPCA states, “Animal hoarders often appear intelligent and clearly believe they are helping their animals. In addition, many hoarders possess the ability to garner sympathy and to deceive others into thinking their situation is under control. They often are blind to the fact that their animals are suffering under their care.

“Animal hoarders range in age, and can be men or women of any race or ethnic group. Elderly people may be more at risk, due to their own deteriorating health and isolation from community and social groups. One commonality between all hoarders is a failure to grasp the severity of their situation.”

Signs of animal hoarding:

• Numerous animals; homeowner may not know the total number.

• Home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).

• Strong smell of ammonia; floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.

• Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.

• Fleas and vermin are present.

• Person is isolated from the community and shows signs of self-neglect.

• Person insists all animals are happy and healthy despite clear signs of distress and illness.

Low/No Cost Spay & Neuter Program

The HYSC secured a $30,000 grant from the ASPCA to fund a low-cost spay and neuter program. Domestic pets from families in need are eligible, while farm and feral cats are trapped, spayed/neutered and released. In one weekend this year, 68 cats and 17 dogs were spayed/neutered, making a significant dent in the future population of unwanted cats and dogs. Cornell University and Eastview Clinic provide the services.


Animals at the Shelter of Hope are carefully matched to potential new owners. The goal is to find healthy and happy “furever homes” for all involved See the animals currently available for adoption at the HSYC website, ; or stop by the Shelter of Hope at 1216 State Route 14A Tuesday – Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. to see them for yourself.

To learn more call the HSYC at 315-536-6094 or visit

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