Animal Hoarder Arrested After Posing as Special Needs Rescue

Written by Rachael Monson
Updated: September 28, 2023
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Originally reported by AZ News on September 22, 2023, and updated the following day, an animal hoarder in Arizona was arrested on animal abuse and neglect charges. The apprehension occurred on Friday evening when police arrived at the home in question and noticed a foul smell emanating from the building. Reports claim residents in the neighborhood registered complaints about the smell and the sound of the dogs barking for weeks before action was taken. Arizona Humane Society states they also made several visits to the home for welfare checks on the animals.

The noxious fumes resulted in police calling for backup from a hazmat team to ensure their own safety before entering the home. They obtained a search warrant and prepared to enter. What they found inside shocked and horrified them, to say the least.

What is an Animal Hoarder?

Similar to other types of hoarding, an animal hoarder collects animals rather than items. These are usually pet animals such as cats or dogs. Often, the hoarder believes they are helping the animals. Hoarding is a mental disorder, according to Mayo Clinic. The hoarder typically refuses to accept that living conditions are atrocious for both themselves and the animals. Many animal hoarders do not start out this way. They begin actually helping animals, then suddenly find themselves overwhelmed, overworked, and understaffed. This leads to animals suffering without basic needs such as space to move, food, shelter, and even water. The hoarder also suffers in these disgusting living conditions.

Big mess in an over stuffed suburban garage. animal hoarder.

Many hoarders refuse to accept they have a problem which leads to worsening conditions over time.

©Denis Torkhov/

Who Was Arrested?

April McLaughlin of Chandler, AZ, U.S., was the owner and operator of the Special Needs Animal Welfare League (SNAWL). She claimed she specialized in caring for special needs dogs, such as those with difficulties walking or those requiring multiple medications administered daily. The house was absolutely filled with special needs animals not getting any care they needed. McLaughlin’s elderly mother also lived in the home. Charges have been entered regarding abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult on her behalf.

The rescue can no longer be located with any of its social media pages or its former website address. The animal hoarder was arrested on several charges of animal cruelty and neglect. Sentencing has not yet been delivered as of the time of writing. Chandler Police Department posted the following press release on their Facebook page:

Press ReleaseChandler Police Provide Update on Animal Abuse InvestigationCity Government of Chandler, ArizonaChandler Fire DepartmentArizona Humane Society

Posted by Chandler Police Department on Saturday, September 23, 2023

How Did the Animal Hoarder Get Caught?

A paralyzed dog named Butters was the catalyst that resulted in a search warrant for the home. Yaqui Animal Rescue of Texas called the living conditions and quality of care under question when they saw a Facebook post of Butters looking very thin. Becca Arimendi, a board member of the rescue, says something just didn’t feel right. So, she and two other rescue staff members decided to make the 18-hour journey from their home to SNAWL.

Upon their arrival, standing outside the front door, the smell alone was enough to cause concern. The alarmed visitors heard the barking and screaming of many dogs. Dozens, in fact. Arimendi and her coworkers turned to the local police department when efforts to reach anyone inside the home proved useless. They felt terrified for the two dogs from their own rescue, which were now in McLaughlin’s possession, as it became evident that she was hoarding animals. Yaqui Animal Rescue posted their horrible findings along with more information on their Facebook page.

April McLaughlin has been charged with 55 counts of cruelty to animals. Two of those disabled dogs, were ours. We sent…

Posted by Yaqui Animal Rescue on Saturday, September 23, 2023

What Did Police Find in the Home?

What the search warrant revealed astounded the police. They saw dogs of all shapes and sizes with varying degrees of disability overrunning the home. They found wire cages draped in tarps and stacked on one another containing dogs covered in their own urine and feces. McLaughlin’s mother didn’t even have a bed to sleep on nor enough food to eat. None of the dogs had access to water. Some rooms in the home had to be ventilated before first responders could safely enter. They wore oxygen masks to prevent breathing in the overpowering ammonia vapors.

Incredibly, 55 living dogs were recovered from the home. Five puppies found in the freezer died of unknown causes. Many of the dogs suffered from injuries, urine scald, bed sores, and more. Some dogs suffered so badly that the veterinarian noted they would require euthanasia. With all of these horrors now clearly displayed, authorities arrested the animal hoarder.

She now faces 110 misdemeanor charges. Two charges for each of the 55 dogs – one for animal abuse, neglect, and abandonment and another for failure to provide adequate medical treatment. The final charge is the abuse and neglect of her elderly mother, which could be entered as a felony according to Arizona’s state laws.

Yesterday, a probable cause affidavit was released regarding the April McLaughlin (Addison)/SNAWL scam rescue…

Posted by Yaqui Animal Rescue on Sunday, September 24, 2023

Watch the AZ News Report on the Animal Hoarder Incident Below!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Gorodenkoff/

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About the Author

Rachael Monson is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her primary focus is cats, big and small. She also works as senior veterinary assistant and has been in that field since 2012. A resident of Mississippi, she enjoys spending her off time playing video games with her husband and hanging out with her pets (a Bengal cat named Citrine and Basset Hound/Pomeranian mix dog named Pepsi).

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