DES MOINES, Iowa — The Animal Rescue League of Iowa is currently dealing with its fourth cat hoarding case in ten weeks bringing the total number of animals in their care up to 1,800.
ARL Director of Animal Control Services Joe Stafford said 20 kittens and 16 cats were removed from deplorable conditions in Des Moines home on Pleasant Street.
“The majority of those cats were in a little better shape than the kittens but still were suffering from the lack of care that was necessary. One of the cats had an active open wound that contained living maggots. Fortunately we were able to get those cats back here and our medical team went to work on them immediately,” Stafford said.
Officers said the cat owner, 70-year-old Paula Schaefer was arrested Wednesday night and charged with animal neglect and having too many cats.
Stafford and police said this isn’t the first time she’s done this, they’ve faced the same problem with her four times in the last 11 years.
Police say for repeat offenders, that’s where a whole team of resources that come into play.
“That’s where we use some of the resources like DHS and our mental health crisis team to kind of see if we can evaluate what’s prompting the person to do this and then if it does look like there might be a dependant adult situation or a mental health issue then we can connect them with the right resources here in town,” Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek said.
A clinical psychologist that’s worked on the Mobile Crisis Response Team and responded to animal hoarding cases said there are three models they use for treatment one is trauma and loss, another is thinking of it more like an addiction and the last is OCD.
“One of the models is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and certainly it shares the sense that folks have a compulsion to do this. That if they don’t or they get rid of a pet or get rid of stuff then they experience anxiety. There are some therapies that can help with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and there are also some medications that can help reduce the anxiety,” Clinical Psychologist Dr. Earl Kilgore said.
The ARL said part of the reason animal hoarding cases keep coming up is because of the lack of animal abuse and neglect laws in the state.
“There’s no provisions currently that address these situations specifically. Other states have laws that specifically address animal hoarders since they need to be handled differently than some of the other animal abuse and animal neglect cases. So we are far behind on that and we have a lot of ways to go. We will be at the Capitol again next year trying to get that improved,” Stephanie Filer, with the Animal Rescue League, said.
If you think you or someone you know is mentally struggling with an animal hoarding situation you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Iowa at 515-254-0417 and they can help point you in the right direction on where to seek treatment.
You can also call your local police department to report it and they can point them in the right direction for treatment and other resources.