Utah’s 2022 Legislative Session Recap: Companion Animal Bills

HB 476 Protest rally at Utah State Capitol
HB 476 protest rally at Utah State Capitol.

Utah’s 2022 legislative session ended on March 5, 2022 and what a busy session it was! Our advocacy team spent every day of the session at the capitol, educating our legislators on the importance of protecting animals and making sure our furry friends’ voices were heard. 

We had a very big win this year, securing protections for pets, and additional protections for humans, in domestic violence situations. We had a second big win in defeating a bill that would have opened the floodgates to puppy mills in Utah. 

While we had a couple of (big!) wins, other animal bills did not fare quite as well. Read on for a breakdown of companion animal-related bills and their outcomes from the 2022 session.


Our Bills

H.B. 175 – Protection of Animals Amendments PASSED!

Run in partnership with our friends at Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering, H.B. 175 was sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero (District 26) and sponsored on the floor by Sen. David Hinkins (District 27). 

After passing both houses of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, this bill was signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox in late March of 2022. 

HSU and Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering staff stand with Representative Angela Romero
HSU and Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering staff stand with Representative Angela Romero in the Utah State Capitol building.

The new law allows courts to include household animals in protection-from-abuse orders (including domestic violence, dating violence, cohabitant abuse, and child abuse protective orders) and expands the “emotional distress” resulting from harm to an animal in domestic violence cases to also include cases of stalking.

H.B. 92 – Transportation of Dogs ActFailed

Sponsored by Rep. Ashlee Matthews (District 37), this bill would have required dogs transported on Utah’s freeways in open back trucks (including flatbeds) to be cross-tethered or in a secured crate. 

Despite the commonsense nature of this bill, it received strong opposition from two members of the House of Representatives at its committee hearing. One member made a point to state that there was nothing wrong with the bill itself and that we had considered the interests of all stakeholders, but that he would never vote for such a bill. 

With the failure of this bill, we head into another summer of dogs clinging to hold on in the back of trucks on the freeway, burning paws on the hot metal, and breathing in significant amounts of debris while distracted drivers look on in horror. 

A scared dog rides on the back of a flatbed truck traveling at high speeds on a busy Utah Highway.

If you want to see dogs protected during transport on our freeways, call your representative and senator to demand it.


Bills We Strongly Opposed

H.B. 476 – Local Agriculture AmendmentsFAILED!

Backed by pro-puppy mill lobbyists, H.B. 476 would have erased local regulations of animal-related businesses and prevented future protections for animals on the local level. In simple terms: this bill, if passed, would have opened Utah to completely unregulated puppy mills and the stores that sell animals from puppy and kitten mills. 

HSU and other animal advocates rally on the steps of the Utah State Capitol building to protest H.B. 476.

However, we, along with half a dozen other animal welfare organizations and thousands of amazing supporters like you, defeated this bill! Your calls and emails to your representatives and senators helped our legislature realize that this was a bad bill with horrible consequences for the beloved animals of Utah. This bill thankfully died before a vote in the senate. Unfortunately, the same concept will undoubtedly be re-introduced in the next session. We will be there to fight it every step of the way.


Other Companion Animal Legislation

Several other bills were filed with the legislature this year to bring additional protections to companion animals in our state. Some made it all the way to the end of the session but were not voted on before the clock struck midnight on the night of March 5. Others never made it out of committee. Here is a quick rundown of those bills:

SB69 – Animal Shelter RevisionsFailed

This bill would have eliminated gas chamber euthanasia in Utah shelters. 

SB165 – Animal Cruelty Modifications Failed

This bill would have expanded Utah’s animal cruelty code to better define proper care for an animal, including a more substantial definition of what constitutes “shelter.”

HB112 – Animal Fighting PenaltiesFailed

This bill would have expanded the definition of “animal” in Utah’s anti-dog fighting statute to include all animals. 

HB306 – Cosmetic Sale AmendmentsFailed

This bill would have banned the sale in Utah of cosmetics tested on animals. 


While perhaps not the strongest year for companion animal protection, the number of animal protection bills introduced in the 2022 legislative session did prove one thing: Utahns care about companion animals and want to see them treated well. And we agree! We will keep fighting on the local, state, and federal level to secure protections for pets and the human-animal bond. We hope you will join us.  
Watch our social media accounts and sign up for advocacy alerts to stay informed and get active!

Animal Cruelty Training

Active law enforcement, animal control, and prosecutors are invited to attend the 2022 Animal Cruelty Training.
Learn how to develop a solid case when investigating animal cruelty and neglect that will improve the likelihood of a successful prosecution.

Discussion Will Include:

  • Effective report writing
  • The importance of meticulous evidence collection
  • Chain-of-custody considerations
  • Dealing with the media
  • Working with your local prosecutor
  • Giving compelling testimony
  • And more!

With Guest Speaker, Jacob Kamins – State of Oregon Animal Cruelty DDA

Jacob Kamins

Since 2013, Jake Kamins has served as Animal Cruelty Deputy District Attorney (AC-DDA) in the State of Oregon, where he represents the State in criminal animal cruelty cases. To date, Jake has been sworn as a Deputy District Attorney in 22 of Oregon’s 36 counties, prosecuting over 250 individual cases of animal abuse and neglect.
As AC-DDA, Jake trains and consults with law enforcement, veterinarians, animal rescue workers, and attorneys on animal cruelty issues. He also communicates regularly with the media as a subject matter expert and has been involved in legislative drafting and testimony.
Jake worked as a Deputy DA at the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office from 2009-2013. He received his B.A. in 2004 from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, and his J.D. in 2009 from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. At Lewis & Clark, Jake was an Associate Editor of the Lewis & Clark Law Review and clerked at the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office. While at Multnomah County, Jake developed a passion for working on animal cruelty cases. In 2012, he was named one of the nation’s Top 10 Animal Defenders by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Jake lives in Portland with his wife, his two children, and Sophie and Scarf, the family cats.

Date/Time
Date – May 20, 2022
9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Location
Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites
818 E. Winchester
Murray, UT 84107

If you have any questions, please Contact Us, and select “Animal Welfare / Advocacy”.

Light refreshments and snacks will be available throughout the day. Attendees are responsible for their own lunch.

If a hotel room is needed, we have negotiated a rate of $100/night, please use code: HU522.

The event will be capped at 50, spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Housing Resources

Woman sits on fronch porch smiling while petting a long haired golden colored dog who is laying on his side with his tongue out.

Some apartments do not allow cats or dogs. View this Apartment Guide to see places that allow pets before signing a rental agreement. 

The inclusion of a service, organization, or program in this listing is NOT an endorsement or recommendation. We are not able to guarantee the quality of these services and recommend that you gain additional information before using a specific service.

Service Animal Etiquette: Can I Pet that Dog?

service dog

Picture this: you’re walking down the street in the local shopping district and you see a dog in a vest labeled “service dog” in bold lettering. You love animals and you’re excited to say hello to any that you meet, but can you greet this pup? 

So what should you do when you encounter a service animal? We’ve compiled this list of tips and tricks to help guide you!

According to the ADA, service animals are animals that have been trained to perform specific tasks related to the disability (or disabilities) of their handler. (For more information on what service animals are and what they do, check out this blog post we published last year.) These animals are considered to be a form of medical equipment, and distracting them from their tasks can be dangerous for their handlers.

service dog
  1. Do not distract (pet or otherwise engage with) a service animal

As a general rule, it is not a good idea to pet animals you are not familiar with without asking an owner’s permission, but this is doubly important when it comes to service animals. If a service animal becomes distracted, they may be unable to perform the tasks they have been trained to do for their handler’s health, which could lead to a medical emergency.

Talking directly to a service animal, especially in high-pitched tones, can also be a distraction for the animal. Because of this, it is good practice to avoid addressing service dogs directly or making a fuss that would garner the dog’s attention.

  1. Do respect a service animal’s space

Under the ADA, service animals are permitted in areas that pets are not, including grocery stores, restaurants, and office buildings. For the most part, a service animal is allowed to go anywhere their handler goes so they can perform health-related tasks.. 

If you see a service dog in an area that you are not used to seeing animals, know that they are doing their job and that they are permitted to be where they are.

  1. Do follow an unattended service animal

If you find yourself in the presence of an unattended service animal, do not try to capture or restrain them. Some disabilities cause handlers to pass out, seize, or become otherwise unresponsive, and it is common for these handlers to train their dogs to go get help should they have an episode.

If a dog approaches you in a service vest with no handler present, they are likely trying to get your attention to get help for their handler. First, follow the dog back to the site of the incident so you know where to find the handler in distress. From there, call 911 or locate an individual who is trained to help in medical emergencies, such as a paramedic

So, next time you see one of these vest-clad furry friends, admire them from a distance. They are truly heroes in fluffy disguises, and they are working hard!

State-Level Advocacy

The 2022 Legislative Session

This year, Utah’s legislative session officially starts on Tuesday, January 18. With just 45 short days in the session, it is sure to be a whirlwind! The Humane Society of Utah’s advocacy team will be posted at the Utah State Capitol every day of the session, ready to educate legislators on the companion animal welfare issues facing our state. 

There are quite a few bills up for consideration this year that will impact pets and their people. Read on to see the bills we have brought forth and the bills we are supporting this session. We will keep an updated list of the bills we are supporting, and their progress, on our website throughout the session. 

State-Level Advocacy - Utah State Capitol on Animal Welfare Day

Our Bills

  1. Protection of Animals Amendments (HB 175) – Sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero, House District 26. We have partnered with Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering for this important bill. This bill will allow survivors of domestic violence to include their pets in personal protective orders. Abusers often use violence or threats of violence against a victim’s pet as a psychological tool to manipulate and further control the victim. The fear of an abuser causing harm to a beloved animal often delays victims from leaving an abusive household or stops them from fleeing entirely. In fact, nearly 50% of domestic violence victims have delayed leaving their abuser out of fear of harm to their pets. The intent of this legislation is to ensure that survivors can protect themselves and their pets sooner. 
  2. Transportation of Dogs Act (HB 92) – Sponsored by Rep. Ashlee Matthews, House District 38. This bill protects public safety and animal welfare by specifying the methods by which a dog can be transported on a truck bed. Dogs riding unrestrained in a truck bed are at risk of being ejected from the vehicle in the event of an accident, are exposed to unforgiving Utah weather conditions, and risk being struck by flying debris. Unrestrained companion animals also pose a risk to public safety and contribute to distracted driving. The intent of this legislation is to ensure that dogs are properly and safely restrained on highways to prevent them from becoming projectiles, causing injury or death to themselves or others on the roadway. 

Bills We Support

  1. Animal Shelter Amendments (SB 69) – Sponsored by Sen. David Hinkins, Senate District 27. This bill will mandate euthanasia-by-injection in animal shelters throughout Utah for non-emergency euthanasia. Utah is one of very few states that still allow euthanasia by gas chamber. While there are a lot of hurdles for companion animal welfare in our state, inhumane euthanasia should not be one of them. The intent of this bill is to ban gas chamber euthanasia, which we at the Humane Society of Utah fully support!  
  2. Animal Fighting Penalties (HB 112) – Sponsored by Rep. Marsha Judkins, District 61. This bill will expand the animal fighting laws in Utah to apply to all animals, not just dogs, and roosters. While dogfighting and cockfighting are the most commonly known forms of animal fighting, many different species of animals, when pitted against one another by bad actors, can and do fight. The intent of this legislation is to ensure animals of any species are not forced to fight, and if they are, the greedy humans involved are met with legal consequences. 

Here’s hoping for a successful legislative session, where animal welfare wins and changes in our laws make it a little easier to Change Their World.

Want to be kept up-to-date with our advocacy efforts, including action alerts on the bills listed above? Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for weekly updates.

Utah Pet Care Regulations

Join the Humane Society of Utah in our advocacy effort to pass sweeping statewide regulations for pet care facilities and businesses!    

Utah pet care regulations

There is currently little to no regulation for pet care facilities and businesses in Utah. In essence, this means any individual may represent themselves as a dog trainer, groomer, pet sitter, doggy daycare, and so on. This lack of regulation further allows almost anyone with a 501(c)(3) to claim to be a rescuer. This lack of uniformity makes it difficult for pet owners to ensure their beloved companion animals are being treated humanely. 

People in our own community have experienced the disturbing and sometimes even heartbreaking consequences of this lack of regulation. Dogs have been lost on group hikes because the walker has eight dogs to watch at one time. Dog sitters have lied about showing up to a house to care for a dog, leaving the dog alone for up to 14 hours at a time. Dogs are let off leash without their guardian’s consent putting that dog and others at risk. A dog was even left in a hot car by a dog walker for over two hours, he did not survive.

However, this lack of regulation does not only affect businesses, it also impacts municipal shelters. There are no standards for euthanasia which leads to euthanasia methods not recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. There are no rules pertaining to temperature-controlled facilities or population. There’s no standardization of cleaning methods which leads to outbreaks of infectious disease. Hoarders are able to disguise themselves as “rescues.” Animals are adopted out unvaccinated and unaltered. 

It is time for change!

Here is how YOU can help companion animals in Utah!

  1. Find out who your local representative is here.
  2. Write your representative a letter asking for their support of sweeping statewide pet care facility regulations. Use one of our templates below or create your own. Feel free to pull facts from the list above to bolster your argument!
  3. Sign and share this petition.
  4. Follow our Facebook and Instagram for updates on social media, sign up for advocacy alerts, and share our posts.
  5. Urge your friends and family to do the same by sharing the link to this page with them. 

Thank you for supporting the passage of statewide regulations for pet care facilities and businesses and thank you for helping us to Change Their World.™


OPTION ONE:

Dear Representative XXX,

[Introduce yourself as a concerned constituent]

[Explain why you believe it is important for Utah to have statewide regulations for pet care facilities and businesses]

[Ask the Rep. to support standardized pet care facility regulations in Utah]

[Thank them for their time and consideration]

Sincerely,

XXX, a concerned constituent

OPTION TWO:

Dear Representative XXX,

I ask kindly as one of your constituents that you consider supporting statewide regulations for pet care facilities and businesses. There is currently little to no regulation for pet care facilities and businesses in Utah. In essence, this means any individual may represent themselves as a dog trainer, groomer, pet sitter, doggy daycare, and so on. This makes it extremely difficult for pet guardians to select a trusted and humane option for their beloved pets.

Specifically, XXX. 

Please consider supporting sweeping statewide regulations to hold pet care facilities and businesses to a higher standard.

Sincerely,

XXX, Concerned Constituent 

Assistance Animals

Assistance Animal FAQs

Preguntas frecuentes sobre los animales de asistencia

For the Public-

What is a service animal? 

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. To “do work or perform tasks” means the dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog 

that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind her to take her medication. Or, a person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.

Are emotional support, therapy, or companion animals considered service animals? 

No. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. 

Does the ADA require service animals to be professionally trained? 

No. People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog training program.

Are service-animals-in-training considered service animals under the ADA? 

No. The dog must already be trained before it can be taken into public places.

What questions can an employee ask to determine if a dog is a service animal? 

In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

Do service animals have to wear a specific vest, tag, or ID identifying them as a service animal? 

No.

Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as such? 

No. 

May a city require a dog to be registered as a service animal under the ADA? 

No.  Mandatory registration of service animals is not permissible under the ADA.  However, service animals are subject to the same licensing and vaccination rules that are applied to all dogs.

Can a service animal be any breed of dog? 

Yes.

assistance animals

For Law Enforcement-

How should I handle a complaint regarding a service animal? 

When handling calls of a complaint regarding a service animal, law enforcement officers should remain neutral and should be prepared to explain the ADA requirements concerning service animals to the concerned parties. Businesses are required to allow service animals to accompany their owner into all areas that other customers or members of the public are allowed. Absent a violation of law independent of the ADA, officers should take no enforcement action beyond keeping the peace. Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against as a result of a disability should be referred to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Can individuals with disabilities be refused access to a facility based solely on the breed of their service animal? 

No.  A service animal may not be excluded based on assumptions or stereotypes about the animal’s breed or how the animal might behave.  However, if a particular service animal behaves in a way that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, has a history of such behavior, or is not under the control of the handler, that animal may be excluded.  If an animal is excluded for such reasons, staff must still offer their goods or services to the person without the animal present.

If a municipality has an ordinance that bans certain breeds of dogs, does the ban apply to service animals? 

No. Municipalities that prohibit specific breeds of dogs must make an exception for a service animal of a prohibited breed, unless the dog poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.  Under the “direct threat” provisions of the ADA, local jurisdictions need to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal’s actual behavior or history, but they may not exclude a service animal because of fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave.  It is important to note that breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  In fact, some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions.

Where can service animals be excluded? 

The ADA does not require covered entities to modify policies, practices, or procedures if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of the goods, services, programs, or activities provided to the public.  Nor does it overrule legitimate safety requirements.  If admitting service animals would fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program, service animals may be prohibited.  In addition, if a particular service animal is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it, or if it is not housebroken, that animal may be excluded.

When might a service dog’s presence fundamentally alter the nature of a service or program provided to the public?  

In most settings, the presence of a service animal will not result in a fundamental alteration.  However, there are some exceptions.  For example, at a boarding school, service animals could be restricted from a specific area of a dormitory reserved specifically for students with allergies to dog dander.  At a zoo, service animals can be restricted from areas where the animals on display are the natural prey or natural predators of dogs, where the presence of a dog would be disruptive, causing the displayed animals to behave aggressively or become agitated.  They cannot be restricted from other areas of the zoo. 

What does under control mean? Must service animals be on a leash? Do they have to be quiet and not bark? 

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. In the school (K-12) context and in similar settings, the school or similar entity may need to provide some assistance to enable a particular student to handle his or her service animal. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

What happens if a person thinks a covered entity’s staff has discriminated against them? 

Individuals who believe that they have been illegally denied access or service because they use service animals may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice.  Individuals also have the right to file a private lawsuit in Federal court charging the entity with discrimination under the ADA.

The information on this page has been sourced directly from the U.S. Department of Justice. For more information, please visit https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

Pets in Hot Cars in Utah

What Should I Do If an Animal Is Left Unattended in a Hot Vehicle?

As the weather warms up, we want you to be aware of the dangers of leaving an animal in a vehicle. Never leave an animal unattended in a vehicle on a warm day. If you see an unattended animal in a vehicle in distress, call your local police or animal control immediately. While several states have “good samaritan” laws that give an individual civil immunity for breaking into another person’s car to rescue an animal, Utah does not. As such, it is incredibly important to report an animal in distress to the local authorities as quickly as possible for intervention and the best possible outcome for the animal. 

pets in hot cars in utah

Warm Weather and Animals in Vehicles: A Dangerous Mix

The temperature inside a vehicle increases by about 40 degrees in an hour, with the bulk of the temperature increase occurring within the first 15-20 minutes. That 40-degree climb is an average, not a limit. This means that, even on a 60-degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle can easily reach above 100 degrees within an hour. As we enter the summer months and temperatures average between 85 and 100 degrees throughout most of the state, the temperature inside a vehicle will become dangerous to humans and animals within minutes.  For most companion animals, heat exhaustion occurs at 105 degrees. At 110 degrees, irreparable damage occurs in an animal’s body, and death is likely. This is further complicated by an animal’s anatomy. Dogs, for instance, control their body temperature through panting. Though they do have sweat glands in their feet, these glands do very little to control their body temperature. The reliance dogs have on panting to cool down makes some breeds, particularly brachycephalic breeds (e.g., “smush face” breeds, such as pugs), more susceptible to overheating due to reduced breathing capacity.  

What If I Park in the Shade/Roll Down My Windows? 

A vehicle traps heat, regardless of being parked in the shade or having the windows rolled down. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, an independent study performed on the temperature rise in enclosed vehicles found that cracking the windows had very little effect on the temperature rise inside the vehicle. Another study, performed by the Louisiana Office of Public Health, found that neither a lighter color of vehicle nor cloudiness reduced the heat trapped in a vehicle.  

How Do I Know If an Animal Is in Danger?

Signs of heatstroke and distress in companion animals include:

  • Panting – increasing in intensity as heatstroke progresses
  • Drooling and salivating, with the drool getting thicker as the animal becomes more dehydrated
  • Agitation and restlessness; often pawing at the air
  • Bright red tongue that may swell
  • Dizziness, stumbling, trouble standing
  • Muscle tremors
  • Lethargy 

What Do I Do If I See an Animal in Distress? 

Local ordinances regarding animals in hot vehicles vary from municipality to municipality, but Utah state law criminalizes cruelty to animals. Cruelty to animals includes inadequate protection from extreme weather conditions. If there is any indication that an animal is in distress, call your local authorities for assistance. If you aren’t sure who to call, call 911 and they can direct you to an appropriate officer.  Please note that it is not legal in the state of Utah for a citizen to break into another individual’s car to rescue an animal. If you do this, you will likely face criminal charges and/or civil liability. 

Treating Heatstroke in Dogs and Cats

If you come across an animal that has been pulled from a hot vehicle and is experiencing heatstroke, seek professional help immediately. A veterinarian is best equipped to handle heatstroke in animals, but in an emergency situation, the following can be performed:

  • Move the animal to a cooler, shady spot
  • Wet a towel with cool (NOT cold) water and lay the animal on the towel 
  • Offer small amounts of room temperature water for the animal to drink frequently, but DO NOT force the animal to drink water
  • Put a small amount of cool water around the ears and paws to help cool them down
  • Lay the animal in front of a fan to dry off 

Advocating for Pets left in Hot Cars in Utah

Find out what your local ordinance is for pets left in hot cars by checking out your city’s code webpage or by calling your local animal control. If your city doesn’t have a local ordinance and you want to get one on the books to further protect companion animals in your city, contact our Advocacy Department. We are happy to guide you on how to go about making that change.  In addition to the steps above, you can help advocate for animals in your community by increasing awareness of the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars by sharing this on social media.

Animal Hoarding in Utah

What To Do If I Suspect My Friend/Family Member/Neighbor is an Animal Hoarder?

An often overlooked and underreported source of animal cruelty is animal hoarding. Animal hoarding tends to take place in private places like the home and can be challenging to detect, even for friends and family. However, due to the large number of animals involved and the destructive impact animal hoarding has on human well-being, it is crucial to recognize hoarding and to get appropriate intervention to reduce human and animal suffering.

animal hoarding in utah

What is Animal Hoarding?

Animal hoarding is a variation of hoarding disorder, a psychological condition. According to the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC), animal hoarding is defined by four main characteristics:

  1. The failure to provide minimal standards of sanitation, space, nutrition and veterinary care for the animals in one’s care; 
  2. An inability to recognize the effects of this failure on the welfare of the animals, human members of the household, and the environment; 
  3. Obsessive attempts to accumulate or maintain a collection of animals in the face of progressively deteriorating conditions; and 
  4. Denial or minimization of problems and living conditions for people and animals.

 In short, hoarders cannot adequately care for the animals in their possession. Animals may suffer from illness due to being malnourished or exposed to built up excrement in the home. A buildup of urine can cause ammonia burns to an animal’s skin and eyes. Accumulation of feces can lead to bacterial infections and illness. Additionally, animals in hoarding situations tend to be undersocialized, exhibiting a fear response to humans that can become aggressive, leading to a potential public safety issue in addition to the public health issues caused by excessive accumulation of animals.  

animal hoarding in utah

Types of Hoarders

There are three general types of hoarders: the overwhelmed caregiver, the rescuer, and the exploiter. 

The Overwhelmed Caregiver

The overwhelmed caregiver is a type of hoarder who owns a large number of animals that were likely reasonably well taken care of until a significant change in life circumstances compromised the person’s ability to care for the animals properly. These circumstances may include job loss, death of a loved one, or diagnosis of a serious illness. The problem is compounded when the individual has unaltered companion animals who breed, passively adding to the total amount of animals in the home and therefore making caregiving that much more difficult. Typically isolated, this type of hoarder can be difficult to spot and, therefore, hard to help. However, when confronted by an authority figure, this individual usually has fewer problems accepting help than the rescuer-hoarder or exploiter-hoarder. 

The Rescuer

The rescuer type of hoarder can be an individual or, most commonly, an individual posing as an organization. This hoarder type is generally mission-driven, aiming to save as many animals as possible from a presumed threat (often euthanasia). While they may care deeply for their animals, they also tend to believe that only they can adequately care for the animals and fail to recognize the poor standard of living to which their animals are reduced. Acquiring new animals tends to take place by taking on additional animals they perceive to need rescue, including animals from classified ads, shelters with higher-than-average euthanasia rates, and individuals looking to rehome their animals, as well as by taking in stray animals. They may even register as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit rescue or sanctuary, acquiring animals and donations from unsuspecting individuals under the guise of being a legitimate organization. Due to the mission-driven nature of their hoarding, rescuer-hoarders may go to great lengths to avoid intervention from authorities. 

The Exploiter

Exploiter-hoarders are not driven by love or compassion for the animals they hoard. Instead, exploiter-hoarders tend to acquire animals for their own needs with little or no attachment to the animals themselves. Often, their personalities are charming, but they tend to lack remorse or guilt for the treatment of animals in their care. Their focus on gaining what they need from hoarding the animals and their indifference to the animals themselves makes them more likely to avoid detection actively. An example of an exploiter-hoarder is a puppy mill operator or backyard breeder. 

animal hoarding in utah

How to Spot a Hoarder

A large number of animals is not necessarily indicative of a hoarder. For instance, in communities with access to community cat programs, an individual or group of individuals may care for a large population of outdoor semi-feral or feral cats but may have the connections and resources necessary to keep the situation under control. The problem begins when a situation spins out of control. 

 The ASPCA lists the following ways to detect an individual hoarder:

  • They have numerous animals and may not know the total number in their care;
  • Their home is in rough shape and often deteriorating further, including dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in the wall and floor, and extremely cluttered surroundings;
  • There is a strong smell of ammonia or feces in or around the home;
  • The floors of the home may be covered in dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.;
  • Animals are emaciated, lethargic, and not well socialized;
  • Fleas and rodents are present in or around the home;
  • The individual is isolated from the community and appears to be neglecting their own needs; 
  • The individual insists all or most of the animals in their care are happy and healthy, even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.

The ASPCA lists the following ways to detect an organizational hoarder:

  • The group is unwilling to let visitors see the location where the animals are kept or bred (pay particular attention to the background of photos posted on social media and websites);
  • The group will not disclose the number of animals in its care and makes little effort to adopt animals out;
  • More animals are continually taken in, despite the poor condition of existing animals;
  • Legitimate shelters and rescue organizations are viewed as the enemy;
  • Animals may be received or sold at a remote location rather than at the group’s actual facility if it exists.
animal hoarding in utah

What To Do When You Suspect Someone in Your Life or Neighborhood is Hoarding Animals

Individuals with hoarding disorder have a diagnosable illness. They are likely entirely unaware of the dysfunction involved in their behavior or the harm they are causing to the animals and themselves. Encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional, assuring them that seeking help is what is best for the animals in their care. Please note, when dealing with an exploiter-hoarder, you may need to skip an encouragement of self-help entirely and rely directly on the authorities.  They may be unwilling to accept help, and if that is the case, your first call should be to your local police department or animal control to initiate an investigation. Because animal hoarding is a multifaceted problem, the solution does not end with the police or animal control. Other important contacts include:

  • Social Services Groups – Different social services may need to be involved depending on who is in the household, such as adult protective services for elderly individuals and child protective services for children in the home.
  • Health Department – The state health department or local environmental health department may need to be contacted for more information on the clean-up of the house. 
  • Local Animal Shelters – Removing animals from a hoarding situation is time and resource-intensive, even for the most sophisticated animal shelters. Volunteering your time to these organizations or donating to assist in their operational costs goes a long way in providing care for the victims of animal hoarding. 
animal hoarding in utah

What To Do if You Suspect You May Have a Hoarding Problem

Know that it is okay to need and accept help. Contact a mental health professional as well as an appropriate social services agency to get started on the road to recovery. 

What Should I Do If I Find a Stray Animal?

Please note: The Humane Society of Utah cannot accept stray animals.  

Many Utahans don’t aren’t sure what to do if they find a stray pet.
In Salt Lake County and most other counties and municipalities of Utah, it is illegal to harbor a stray animal. When individuals lose their companion animals, they tend to look at their jurisdiction’s municipal shelter. If you harbor the animal in your home instead of bringing the animal to the municipal shelter, you are depriving the rightful owner of reuniting with their companion animal. Do the right thing by informing animal services of the found animal immediately. 

If you find a stray dog

Dogs can be both in danger and a danger to others when at large. If you find a stray dog, you must take the dog to the municipal shelter in whatever jurisdiction the dog was found. The chances are that a family is missing the dog and will look for him at their local shelter.

If the dog is friendly and approaches you, take the dog to your local municipal shelter. If the dog flees or seems aggressive, do not chase him.

Call your local animal services dispatch to retrieve the dog. If animal services officers are unavailable, you may be able to call your local police dispatch to retrieve the dog and take the dog to impound.

dog in snow

If you find a stray cat 

Caring people bring stray animals to shelters to help them, but cats have different needs than dogs. If you find a healthy stray cat, leave them where they are. Data indicates that owned cats at large will find their way home up to 75% of the time when left in place. However, less than 2% of cats (without microchips) may be reclaimed from a shelter. If the cat does not have a traditional home, but is healthy and appears well-fed, the cat is either finding their own abundant food source and shelter or is being fed and cared for by someone who will be missing them. Crowding them into a shelter promotes stress and disease, and lowers the likelihood of a positive outcome even if the shelter has a return to field (RTF) program.

If you find an ill, injured or endangered stray cat, please take the cat to the municipal shelter in the jurisdiction in which the cat was found. The shelter will attempt to find the original owner while the cat is treated. The cat may be altered and released or humanely euthanized, depending on the needs of the individual animal and the shelter’s resources. If you are unable to get the cat into your custody safely, report the cat’s location to your local municipal animal services.

If you see large populations of unaltered, reproducing cats—characterized by adult cats without tipped ears, or litters of kittens present, call your local shelter and inquire about their RTF program and how you can help.  A tipped ear indicates that they have been spayed or neutered and returned to the field already.

Advocating for the animals in your community

Find out about your local ordinance regarding the care for stray cats and dogs by checking your city’s code webpage or calling your local animal control. Many cities do not have any services for cats, even those that are injured.

If your city doesn’t have services to protect companion animals, contact our advocacy department. We are happy to guide you on how to go about getting valuable services for all companion animals in your area. Thank you for caring about the stray animals in your community!

Our new CATNIP program

The Utah Humane Society Clinic recently launched our CATNIP Program to help spay/neuter trapped feral and community cats at an affordable price in an effort to help trap, neuter, return (TNR) efforts to curb the homeless cat population. Appointments must be made in advance for each cat.

This is not a service for the general public. Please visit UtahHumane.org/CATNIP for more information.

community cat outside