AR-News: AR NEWS: RESCUERS SAY P.A.W.S. CONDITIONSMAY BE SIGN OF
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Sun Sep 14 10:51:55 EDT 2003
Animal hoarders may start out as animal lovers with good intentions.
Most do, said Anita Edson, media relations manager for Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas.
But hoarders or "collectors" just don't know when to say no.
SPCA officials say the owner of P.A.W.S. Around the Planet, an animal rescue
facility raided Thursday, may fit that criteria.
"Hoarding - that's what we have here," said Dave Garcia, director of humane
law enforcement and rescue services for SPCA.
"They (hoarders) are more interested in containing control of the animals
than alleviating the animal's suffering and neglect," Ms. Edson said. "They have
a profound denial that it exists."
SPCA officials and Smith County Constable Precinct 4 Charles Wilson's office
seized nearly 200 dogs Thursday from P.A.W.S. Around the Planet, located north
of Tyler. It was the SPCA of Texas' largest rescue mission.
The owner, Ms. Julia McMurrey, 58, was arrested and charged with one count of
"No one can look at these dogs and say they're just fine," Ms. Edson said.
"It's just horrendous. There's no way one person could properly care for this
Ms. McMurrey, contacted Friday, said on the advice of her attorney, she could
Many of the dogs suffer from starvation, mange and illness. Many are dying or
already dead. Piles of decaying carcasses litter the property.
Officials counted 198 live dogs Thursday. There's no way to tell how many
have died. SPCA officials have stopped counting. Garcia said it appeared Ms.
McMurrey slept in a 10-foot-by-10-foot room on a pallet on the floor with about 20
Ms. Edson said SPCA runs into animal hoarders occasionally, but never have
they seen anything of this magnitude.
SPCA literature suggests that hoarding, which is not in itself a crime, has
not yet been addressed as a mental health issue.
"The individuals have a need to collect these animals and to hoard them," he
said. "Care is not the objective. The objective is to hoard them."
Garcia believes hoarders are triggered by something in their past.
"Something has happened in their past where they feel they need to hoard
animals," he said. "See how they are?" he asked Friday as he pointed to a group of
dogs begging for attention. "They give unconditional love no matter how close
to death they are. The individuals seem to have to have all that love."
The question is what happened in their life that they need all that love, he
But most hoarders appear to have complete control of all their faculties when
it comes to everything else in their lives, Garcia said.
LIMITS OF LOVE
Most people who love animals know they have limits - that they can only have
a certain number of pets, Ms. Edson said.
Hoarders differ from animal rescuers in that they "can't or won't" recognize
their limits, according to SPCA literature. The agency, which is currently
caring for the animals seized at P.A.W.S. Around the Planet, says it works to
promote responsible pet ownership.
Ms. McMurrey's case is the "farthest from that you can get," Ms. Edson said.
"She can't save them all."
Many of the dogs at P.A.W.S. Around the Planet are pregnant. Responsible
owners would have had them spayed or neutered, she said.
"It's clear she wasn't interested in alleviating their suffering. The neglect
is just painfully obvious," Ms. Edson said.
A hearing scheduled for Tuesday will determine a final custody disposition on
the animals. The dogs will remain at the site until they can be located at
"We hope the animals will be turned over to us (SPCA)," Ms. Edson said. "Then
we'll appeal to other humane groups in the North Texas area to help as well
as individuals to help foster the animals."
Until then, SPCA workers continue to care for the animals, providing shelter,
fresh food and water and medical care.
Garcia has worked in animal welfare for 20 years. He has trained and lectured
law enforcement and others nationally for five years and has worked for SPCA
for two years.
Why does he do it?
"These guys," he said pointing to the dogs. "We're the unspoken voice - the
vets and us. These guys (the animals) can't get on the phone and say 'we're
dying out here.'"
Casey Knaupp covers northern Smith, Henderson and Van Zandt counties. She can
be reached at 903.596.6289. e-mail: news at tylerpaper.com
©Tyler Morning Telegraph 2003
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