Hoarding Cleanup Case Study: Working With Animal Services And Code Enforcement

Hoarding cleanup cases can be difficult by themselves.  But what happens when you have a government entity involved with a hoarded home?  Well, the case becomes more complicated.  So what happens when more than one government entity is involved?  Unfortunately, there are very few studies available to study when this occurs.

Government entities generally get involved with hoarded homes when the condition of the interior of the home becomes known to the government agency.  In this case, several neighbors in an affluent neighborhood complained to animal control that a home could be unsafe for the animals (in this case, dogs) to inhabit.  A neighbor was familiar with the laws governing the number of dogs that can occupy a property in this particular city and called the local animal control agency to intervene.

Animal control arrived at the home and asked to examine the dogs.  The occupant agreed and brought each dog individually to be inspected.  Animal control conceded that each dog appeared to be healthy and maintained.

The neighbor then launched a complaint with code enforcement.  The neighbor stated that the yard wasn’t being properly maintained and that there was an odor of “trash” wafting into his yard.

Code enforcement soon showed up and spoke with the resident.  They gave the resident 2 weeks to get the yard in compliance.

This case involves 2 government entities: animal control and code enforcement.  Animal control was called for a welfare check on the dogs and code enforcement was called due to the unkempt yard.

When a second complaint was filed with animal control, the superintendent showed up to inspect the inside of the home.  The resident requested several months to get the home in order, but was granted only a few days.  The wording of the ordinance is key in this case, as it does not directly address the living area of the dogs or the entirety of the home.  Initially, I worked with the resident to get only the areas inhabited by the dogs in order and the rooms leading to the outside (hallway, stairway and porch).

When Animal Control showed up to inspect the home, the rooms that were cleaned and decluttered passed the inspection, but the other rooms that the dogs passed thru still needed to be addressed.  The resident was given a 2 week interval to get one additional room cleaned and decluttered to ensure the safety and health of each dog and give sufficient time for compliance.  He was also given time to produce vaccination records for each dog (in a severely hoarded home, these records will be difficult to find, but can be replaced by the veterinarian providing care.  This process is still going on currently.

Code enforcement will be back in 2 days to inspect the exterior of the home and address the reported issues.  I will update how the inspection goes after I get the results.

Takeaways:

When working with government agencies on any hoarded home, it is important to get a copy of the statues so you will know where to focus your efforts.  If the statutes are vague, make an honest effort to get the areas of most contention into compliance first.  Depending on the agency and representative, more time can be allocated if enough progress is made.

When working with multiple government agencies on a hoarded home, understand that speed and effectiveness will be affected if non-essential areas receive too much focus.

When hoarded homes become public, a key to compliance is starting the process and taking consistent, measurable steps to complete the entire job.