Horses Victimized by Animal Hoarding
(Harrison County, Ohio) Chester Thompson is no stranger to animal control and the criminal justice system. Now in his 80s, he sits in jail as the result of a probation violation which ties to a May 2009 animal cruelty conviction. Thanks to court orders prohibiting Thompson from possessing animals, authorities have repeatedly been able to intervene – at no small expense – on behalf of the neglected horses which continued to be found on his property. Like most animal hoarders, Mr. Thompson is reportedly unwilling or unable to acknowledge the alleged suffering of the horses in his care, despite facing direct evidence of their emaciation and ill health.
- Write a letter to your local prosecutor, thanking them for taking animal cruelty seriously, and letting them know that you are a voting constituent who cares about and follows animal abuse prosecutions in your community. Animal hoarding cases present unique legal challenges – ALDF’s Criminal Justice Program works directly with investigators and prosecutors around the country, providing them with free legal expertise and resources.
- Work with your state legislators toward a “First Strike and You’re Out” law. ALDF drafted this model law to address the issue of repeat offenders and the cruel and costly toll they take on their communities.
- Recognize and report horse neglect in your community.
- Donate your time and expertise to a humane agency or equine rescue near you.
While animal hoarding is usually presented in the context of cats and dogs, it is not uncommon for farm animals to be victimized by this type of abuse. Indeed, given the rural, often remote locations chosen by animal hoarders, and the added demands of large animal care requirements, discovery and intervention in these cases is all the more challenging for humane agents. Those who hoard horses often present themselves as “rescuers” who are nursing animals who reportedly came to them malnourished – this claim will often impede an investigation’s progress, at least temporarily. Though seemingly impossible given how limited their means usually appear, some hoarders are capable of relocating quickly to avoid law enforcement, moving themselves and their horses overnight.
Here are some news stories on the Thompson events:
Harrison County, Ohio, Man Considered A Fugitive, June 8, 2007
2 Horses Center Of Animal Cruelty Investigation, July 3, 2009
Local Man Arrested For Animal Cruelty, July 11, 2009
Animal abuse case delayed in Harrison, July 31, 2009
No New Charges Against Man Accused Of Neglecting Horses, August 11, 2009
As is sadly exemplified by Mr. Thompson’s case, the recidivism rate among animal hoarders approaches 100%. While the criminal justice system may not be the ideal venue for accomplishing mental health interventions, the cyclical criminal suffering of so many animals demands the participation of the courts – where psychological treatment should be meaningfully pursued. The pathology of animal hoarding is not fully understood, and the method of treatment should be deliberately considered case by case. The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC), among its other resources, has released a paper which seeks to inform therapists who find themselves addressing a case of animal hoarding.