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How Long Must a Cat Hoarder Hoard Before Someone Acts?

A Florida woman's neighbors knew there was a problem for years. Why did no one act until now?

 |  Aug 16th 2013  |   39 Contributions


A cable TV technician is overcome by the stench of cat urine emanating from a Port St. Lucie, Florida, woman’s home and reports it to the police. Just a few hours later, Animal Care and Control officers descended on the house and removed more than 50 cats -- and the woman’s two teenage sons.

A few of the dozens of cats seized from Christa Rupprecht's home. Photo courtesy of Port St. Lucie Police

Christa Rupprecht was arrested and charged with child neglect because of the hazardous conditions inside the house.

That quick action was great, wasn’t it?

Well, not so much. You see, it really wasn't quick at all.

Authorities seized several dozen cats from Rupprecht’s house in January. According to WPTV News, the conditions in the house weren’t nearly as awful back then. I suppose ACC figured that despite the fact that there was no follow-up care, Rupprecht would turn away from her hoarding ways. For some reason, her children weren’t a factor at that time.

“But JaneA,” you might say. “The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, and I can understand how months could go by without even a visit from animal control to make sure things are still under control.”

Yes, that’s true. But has Rupprecht been reported before?

This photo of the inside of Rupprecht's house looks pretty tame for a hoarder home. But just be glad I didn't share the one of the bathtub full of cat feces or the disgusting, pee and poop-stained mattresses. Photo courtesy of Port St. Lucie Police

“It's been like this for three or four years. The stench is awful,” Rupprecht’s neighbors, Melissa and Louis Broz, told WPTV. “The kids haven't been outside in like three years.”

If they or other neighbors made previous complaints to authorities about Rupprecht, then I’d say that the city government and child protective services were negligent in investigating the situation. But if they didn’t -- if all they did was bitch and complain to each other and say, “Somebody ought to do something,” then they themselves are just as guilty as Rupprecht when it comes to the endangerment of the children and cats in her home.

And what about school authorities? Teachers and other school officials are mandated reporters for suspected child abuse and neglect. If kids come to school reeking of cat piss every day and they always seem to be sick, you’d think somebody would have gotten a clue that something was going on.

If, as Rupprecht’s neighbors said, the kids "hadn’t been outside in like three years,” does that also mean they never went to school? If so, why didn’t school authorities notice that?

Angry cat by Shutterstock

This kind of stuff makes me so angry! It's our responsibility to take action when we see living beings who depend on others for their care being abused and neglected by those who are supposed to be doing the caretaking.

I’m not saying you should barge into your neighbor’s house if you hear a fight going on, but you could at least call the cops instead of sitting on your hands and thinking “somebody ought to do something.” I’m not saying you should form a vigilante brigade to secretly remove cats from a hoarder’s home, but if you think someone is hoarding, you should definitely contact authorities, and keep on calling them until something is done.

Situations like animal hoarding, abuse and neglect thrive in isolation. The reason animals continue to be hoarded and children continue to be abused is that too many of us are so passionately dedicated to minding our own business that we forget that sometimes human decency demands action.

What do you think? Would you report, or have you reported, an animal hoarder or a case of suspected child abuse or neglect? Have you seen the aftermath of a hoarding situation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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