S. Ore. animal officer says hoarding case worst

SELMA — Brad Tally tries to avoid watching the television show "Confessions: Animal Hoarding" on cable TV's Animal Planet.

The Josephine County Animal Protection and Regulation supervisor said he sees enough depressing things in real life. Nothing, however, prepared him for what he found in a shack made of pallets and plywood planks at a home in Selma.

"It's the worst example of hoarding I've ever seen," Tally said. "It's truly unbelievable."

Last Friday, 81-year-old Geraldine Frain was found dead in the dwelling. Tally said it wasn't until after law enforcement and the coroner cleared the scene that Animal Protection and Environmental Health were alerted to the deplorable conditions inside.

Tally arrived at the scene on Tuesday and was pushed outside by the powerful smell of feces, urine and decomposition. Animal feces, three feet deep in some areas, carpeted the room that served as living quarters for Frain and her adult daughter. Pictures of Jesus and Elvis hung on the walls.

"It was really eerie," Tally said. "It's completely dark, but there were baby clown toys on the ground and dogs coming out of holes in the walls. It was like a horror movie. It was pretty intense."

Twelve cats were found in cages that were wired shut. Nineteen dogs were scattered throughout the residence — some behind a tall plank that was nailed to the wall. An Illinois Valley Fire District crew had to cuts holes in the walls to give Tally and two Animal Protection officers access to the animals.

"They'd throw food over the top," Tally said. "These dogs were never socialized ... Never petted. Never walked."

Four dead dogs were found in crates. Other, living dogs were found wedged in crates that were far too small for the animals.

Tally said some were kept confined and in the dark so long that they are blind and unable to walk.

Tally suspects it took about five years for the situation to get so bad.

Animal hoarding is a compulsive need to collect animals that's rooted in a desire for love and fear of loss. About 3,500 cases of animal hoarding are reported nationwide each year. Tally said it is the responsibility of neighbors or family members to intervene by calling Animal Protection if they are aware of incidents of animal hoarding or abuse.

Tally said the incident should serve as a reminder of the important work his department performs as the county enters budget season.

In 2010, the Budget Committee agreed to give Animal Protection an additional $75,000 to improve operations. That provided the department with enough money to pay for a new enforcement officer. Without adequate funding, the department would have had to close its animal shelter in Merlin to the public and euthanize more animals.

"We're in the same position this year," Tally said. "We hope the county will step in and make sure we can address situations like this."

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