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Photo Gallery | Behind the Scenes: The Victims of Animal Cruelty

Going into animal cruelty or hoarding stories require a great amount of strength, patience and sometimes a few tears. I'm a bleeding-heart animal lover that would (figuratively speaking) stop a car to prevent an animal from being hurt or killed.

It's my job to report the facts though, so I try to set aside all judgment and emotions when I'm faced with an animal who has clearly never felt a loving human hand. Or a human being who doesn't quite understand why his or her animals are being taken away.

It was my intent to find a psychologist who could shed light on animal hoarding as a mental illness. Those who suffer believe that nobody else can love their animals like they can. They believe that they are helping these animals by keeping them off the streets – even if that means keeping them in crowded kennels.

I can't say if today's case is that of animal hoarding, that is up to psychologist and judges to decide. I do know that 50 animals were taken from the home on East Crown and that this isn't the first, second or third time Spokanimal has been there to seize animals.

Also, according to Spokanimal officers, the woman relinquished all but four of the 50 animals and admitted they needed better care. This is not typical animal hoarding behavior, but again... I'm not a psychologist.

I wasn't able to meet the woman who owned the animals today because her front gate was padlocked and a signed warned everyone to “beware of owner” and had a gun on it. I didn't feel like getting shot today.

I saw numerous kennels, stacks of egg cartons piled up in a front window and countless other pieces of debris in the yard. Neighbors say it's been going on for years and complained of the smell that wafts their way year round, growing worse in the summer heat.

When I visited the dogs and cats at SpokAnimal some seemed unaffected and others were clearly traumatized by their experience and recent move to a shelter.

Upon entering SpokAnimal I was immediately tracked by a woman wearing a rainbow-colored sweater. She said she was the sister of the woman who had her animals taken away and was there to reclaim her dog and cats. I felt for her, but I wondered if that was what's best for her or for the animals. After all, she had left them in the care of her sister, who was found to have 15 dogs desperate for thirst and 28 cats held in kennels lined with inches of feces and urine.

I saw cats with “urine sears” as Gail Mackie at Spokanimal put it. It's like diaper rash, but where the skin and hair of the animal falls off. The cats had been stacked into kennels, left day and night outside in the kennels, sleeping and living on their own urine and feces.

These cats will be cleaned, given shots, a microchip and then put into their barn cat program. This is where the cats are adopted to families who have property and/or barns.

You might wonder how this woman has been able to keep up this game of hoarding for nearly three decades. According to Mackie at Spokanimal, it takes first-hand knowledge of animal cruelty and a witness willing to testify to bring criminal charges.

The smell of two cats who had yet to be treated stung at my nostrils and permeated my clothes in the short time I had spent with them. They were scared out of their gourds, but I knew they were on to a better life.

That's really what gets me through these stories – the knowledge that the fabulous shelters in our area are working overtime to give these animals a second shot at life. I wish I was strong enough to face the horror of animal cruelty and hoarding day after day, like the people at Spokanimal, The Humane Society and SCRAPS.

If you can't adopt one of these animals yourself, Spokanimal has a program where you can sponsor an animal to lower the adoption fee for another family.

Spokanimal can be found at 710 North Napa Street. Their number is 534-8133.

Colleen O'Brien is a KXLY4 Reporter. You can find her original story on this animal cruelty incident on www.kxly.com.

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