Once, I let slip to a coworker that my neighbor, Gail, had a lot of animals. In fact, my exact phrasing might have been "animal hoarder."
"What?! Have you reported her?"
Reported her? Such a thought had never crossed my mind. That seems like the kind of thing that might create neighborhood hostilities. I suppose I could go with an anonymous tip, not giving my name and also wearing a fake moustache while making the call (just in case). Besides, Gail is a nice lady. Not that nice ladies are incapable of doing things that the authorities should know about, but this wasn't one of them.
While I wonder sometimes whether Gail's living arrangement is healthy for her, I never worry about the animals. I will probably never know what all she has living inside the house, but the dogs that tumble outside in a shaggy bundle every afternoon to bark at my dog all seem to be fine. Are they up to date on all their shots? Probably not. Are they bathed regularly? It's doubtful, but then again, I bet the dogs prefer it that way.
These animals were exactly one step from death before Gail swooped in and added them to her brood. She likes to go to a small local shelter one county over, where they do not have the space or resources that our urban county shelter has. That shelter pretty much has to wipe out their whole occupancy every single week. All those dogs were facing being put down, and now they have a home. They have food, shelter, a good-sized yard, and a person who loves them. It probably would be better for everyone if those dogs were spread out over more homes, but that option is not on the table. Lots of things would be better for the animals, but none of those things are actually being offered.
I read an article not too long ago about how many rescue organizations and no-kill shelters make it hard for people to adopt animals. They ask a lot of questions, do in-home visits, and often reject prospective pet-owners because of seemingly random and irrelevant reasons. Some of them require that owners only work part-time. These well-meaning animal lovers just want to make sure the pets go to good homes. But as a result of the intense application process and high rejection rate, a lot of people give up and go to an animal breeder instead. Of course, that makes me sad for a different reason. Go to the pound! It's cheap and incredibly easy to walk right out with a great animal. I know that people like to have the option to choose a specific breed, but my feeling is that once you actually have an animal companion, it turns out that it was just the one you wanted.
Reporting Gail would be letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. The problem of pet overpopulation is too big to be excluding people who want to help. I explained all this in a hurry to my coworker, and by the end of it, I had her convinced that Gail was just a crazy, but nice, animal lady who was rescuing dogs from certain death so they could live in a happy doggy home. It is not the perfect dog home, but then again, it's hard to say that a human would be able to define that anyway.