Series highlights animal hoarding

Last year, producers from Animal Planet’s series “Confessions: Animal Hoarding,” contacted the Animal Welfare Association of Voorhees to discuss helping a local family whose daughter was becoming ill due to a rising animal population in the household.

The show is intended to explore the stories of people who own more animals than they can care for, while providing families with the counseling they need to move on. Producers got in touch with the AWA, a no-kill shelter that takes in animals, provides the necessary care and shots for them and helps find a home for them.

Last summer, a much larger animal-hoarding story was uncovered in the region by Joa’s Arc, an animal rescue in Audubon.

At first, the shelter found about 60 cats, but quickly, more and more animals became known in the home … ultimately totaling about 165 cats.

So Joa’s Arc called in a few friends, including the AWA, the Almost Home Animal Shelter and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Shelter.

“We will save them all. We have to,” said Joyce Moyer of Joa’s Arc.

The AWA took 30 cats back to the shelter to be cared for, said Executive Director Maya Richmond. She said the shared experience of working with other local shelters to care for the 165 cats was rewarding for all.

“It was incredible to see. At the AWA, it’s remarkable to watch the cats get the socialization they need to build confidence. It’s quite rewarding how resilient they are,” Richmond said.

Of the 30 cats rescued by the AWA, 20 have been adopted and 10 are still waiting to find loving homes.

Richmond said she feels the show can have a positive impact on viewers, even though the topic can be quite sensitive for some.

She said producers meet with the family involved, find local organizations that can help with the rescue and provide one year of psychological support to those involved.

“We don’t know the family’s history or why people hoard. But we work hard for animals to find safe homes,” Richmond said.

On the first episode the AWA was a part of, the show helped a child who was sick from all the animals in her home receive medical treatment at Cooper University Hospital, Richmond said.

In this most recent effort, Richmond said the groups collaborated well to provide all the animals a safe home. The episode will air on Animal Planet at 10 p.m. on Jan. 27.

“There were good outcomes for the animals and the groups worked well together. It was very smooth,” Richmond said. “The interactions we had with producers and staff were great.”

Once at the AWA’s shelter, the animals are given the necessary medical care needed to be a permanent fixture in a caring home. The animals typically come from local owners, or surrounding shelters, with high kill-rates. Currently, there are 85 animals at the AWA and 26 foster animals.

The shelter also was recently awarded a two-year grant of $180,000 from PetSmart Charities to cover spray/neuter services for the Voorhees, Gloucester Township, Lindenwold and Bellmawr communities.

“The best way to save lives of cats at our area shelters is to make sure that fewer cats enter the system to begin with,” Richmond said. “By intensely focusing our spay/neuter efforts on locations with the most at-risk cats, we can stop the cycle of unwanted litters and homeless cats, save lives, and even money for the county because there will be fewer cats in the shelter.”

For more information on the AWA or to sign up to make an appointment for an owned, stray or feral cat, visit www.awanj.org.