ST. LOUIS – More than 315 animals, many of them emaciated, injured and suffering from mange and parasites, were rescued Tuesday at a southwest Missouri property where they were hoarded and bred, authorities said.
The Humane Society of Missouri and Polk County authorities descended upon the property with warrants after the owners, a family, failed to heed warnings last month to begin providing proper care, said Tim Rickey, the Humane Society's director of rescues and investigations.
Details about the owners were not released, but Rickey said one person was arrested. It isn't known if criminal charges are planned. A call to the Polk County sheriff was not immediately returned Tuesday.
"There are 11 mobile homes on the property full of junk, trash and debris," Rickey said. "The houses are full to the ceilings. They are clearly hoarders but they're also raising and breeding rabbits and dogs. I don't know if they're selling."
The Humane Society said it was the largest rescue it ever had undertaken, and included a menagerie of creatures, half friendly, half shy and almost all of them afraid. The dogs were penned or running loose, he said.
The animals were being removed from an 80-acre rural property near Pleasant Hope in southwest Missouri.
Investigators said the animals had lived in filthy, deplorable conditions without adequate food, water and shelter. Many are underweight and suffering from poor skin and coat conditions and other maladies.
The animals include more than 70 dogs and more than three dozen cats, along with animals ranging from rabbits, ducks and chickens to donkeys, horses and exotic birds and fish. They also found 12 to 15 dead rabbits, dogs, cats, and poultry.
A custody hearing was set for Sept. 2 in Bolivar.
The horses and farm animals will be treated at the Humane Society's Longmeadow Rescue Ranch in Union. The others will be treated at the Humane Society's headquarters in St. Louis.
The animals will not be available for adoption for weeks, but in the meantime, donations of money, bedding, hay, bird and rabbit cages, and toys are needed, along with volunteer animal handlers and persons willing to do laundry, the Humane Society said.
St. Louis psychotherapist Alec Pollard said hoarding is a serious psychiatric disorder that impairs the judgment of an otherwise lucid person.
He said the disorder has early warning signs, but it isn't until collection gets blatantly problematic, that the irrational thinking becomes obvious and identified.
Pollard said typically an animal hoarder goes to court, evokes the judge's pity, and walks away with only a warning, but no mandated treatment.
"Jail is inappropriate for these folks, but to go untreated is not the answer either," he said.