Rescuing the ‘Rescuer’: The Challenging World of Rescue Hoarders

Rescuing the 'Rescuer': The Challenging World of Rescue Hoarders
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2022-06-28
Unit 1 Presentation Materials: Rescuing the ‘Rescuer’
Unit 2 Transcript: Rescuing the ‘Rescuer’
Unit 3 Workbook: Rescuing the ‘Rescuer’
Unit 4 Recording: Rescuing the ‘Rescuer’

Animal control and welfare agencies are challenged when it comes to resources. These challenges are further exasperated when they face animal hoarding cases. First, animal hoarding cases require space, manpower, and other resources that are already limited to start with. Second, public backlash creates obstacles in ensuring the best outcomes for the animals, particularly in cases of hoarders that pose as rescuers or sanctuaries for these animals. This session explores the complex issue of animal hoarding and the tactics employed to address this in communities.

Leading the discussion is Adam Leath, the Director of Volusia County Animal Services where he responds to and investigated situations involving animal victims of natural disasters and cruelty. He is formerly a Regional Director of the Field Investigations and Response Team at the ASPCA where he led one of the largest operations in ASPCA history.

Specifics of the webinar include:

  • The health, safety, and welfare concerns on animals, humans, and the entire community that emphasizes the importance of addressing animal hoarding cases.
  • The different ways public safety and justice agencies are impacted by animal hoarding cases.
  • The defining characteristics of animal hoarding, how it is diagnosed as a mental health condition, and debunking misconceptions surrounding what it is and what it is not.
  • A glimpse into the characteristics of households where animal hoarding transpires.
  • The three types of animal hoarders and their distinguishing qualities in terms of their likelihood for compliance, motivation for hoarding, awareness of the problem, and response to authorities.
  • Health concerns that those who respond to hoarding cases tend to be exposed to, and guidelines to remain safe and protected from zoonotic diseases.
  • A rundown of the classic approaches that law enforcement and animal control and welfare organizations tend to do in response to animal hoarding complaints.
  • How these approaches were found to be ineffective in interrupting the cycle of abuse – the ultimate goal when it comes to dealing with animal hoarding.
  • Charging with animal hoarding – the crime that is laid out in statutes and important details to articulate to establish how the animal is victimized.
  • Things to consider for intervention depending on the type of animal hoarder you are dealing with.
  • The five freedoms that animals should have and the varying levels of quality of care that animals may be provided with which can serve as guidelines on charging and interventions.
  • Factors to take into account when considering conducting a criminal investigation of animal hoarding.
    • Finding out as much information about the subject from the people they’ve dealt with as mail carriers, garbage collectors, customers, and neighbors or their business/non-profit registration.
    • Being on the lookout for red flags that may indicate animal hoarding tendencies.
    • The value of communication to gain compliance and the ability to enter the property.
    • Two ways entry to residence can be secured and each one’s pros and cons.
    • Leveraging a veterinarian to support claims of neglect and cruelty to animals.
    • Anticipating all the resources that may be required to effectively respond and investigate cases.
    • Being organized during the seizure procedure by ensuring every animal that is considered as live evidence is properly and thoroughly documented, particularly before altering them in any way.
  • Recommendations to better effectively respond, investigate, and ultimately address animal hoarding cases through an inter-disciplinary approach and utilizing available resources to assist in the mission.
  • A case example that highlighted the importance of responding to animal hoarding complaints as early as possible, being thorough in the investigative process, and taking control of the public narrative.

Points raised during the Q&A are about:

  • Social media tactics and leveraging a PIO to better frame animal hoarding investigations to the community and the public.
  • Workarounds and resources for agencies that don’t have a dedicated PIO.
  • Individuals and organizations circumventing the law by posing as an animal rescue when they’re actually hoarders.
  • What constitutes a hoarding case.
  • The profile of individuals who tend to become animal hoarders.
  • Tracking system and data collected in animal hoarding cases.
  • Putting animal hoarders through the criminal justice system and how juries tend to decide in these cases.
  • Following up on offenders after a seizure to ensure that they do not acquire more animals.


Other Webinars with This Speaker


Or, click here to register and view other Animal Welfare webinars and recordings on the JCH website. 



Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “Excellent presentation; lots of very useful and helpful information – Many thanks for making this presentation available.” — Laura
  • “The difference between the types of hoarders was very good to understand. Also the specific details of what qualifies as not hoarding and that to meet the hoarding definition all/most of the certain details must be present.” — Wendy
  • “Adam Leath is an excellent and knowledgeable presenter that was able to provide a surplus of information in a short period of time without the presentation feeling overwhelming. I could tell he is very passionate about his work.” — Sarah
  • “Adam is a great presenter and the slides were easy to follow and well-formatted.  Learning the 3 types of animal hoarders was new to me.” — Kirsten
  • “Very concise and informative.” — Henry
  • “Adam’s practical advice and sharing of real experiences is invaluable.” — Amy




This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





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