Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Community Activism Key to Preventing Hoarding

Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
Source: Dr. Stephanie LaFarge
News writer: Ashley Mitek

"...What separates an animal hoarder from an overzealous animal lover is the animal's care, living conditions, and ability to receive veterinary treatment. Hoarders are unable to meet their pet's most minimal needs. Despite that fact, "these people think they are the only person in the world who can give the best care to their animals," explains Dr. LaFarge...

"...Because the stereotype of a little old lady walking into a court room to face several counts of animal abuse tends to make judges and juries feel sympathetic for the "criminal," the legal system rarely prosecutes these people. Unfortunately, "just one hoarder can cause tremendous suffering to animals," notes Dr. LaFarge. It's not just one animal that was abused or neglected, it is usually hundreds that have suffered in deplorable conditions, many of these animals enduring a slow and painful death.

Since the legal system can't stop them, although it may slow them down, most hoarders go back to hoarding whenever they finish probation or mandated mental health treatments. "It's just like substance abuse," says Dr. LaFarge, "it's a matter of time before most relapse." The research and case follow-ups collected at Tufts University's Animal Hoarding Research Consortium back up Dr. LaFarge's experience. According to their data, the recidivism rate is nearly 100 percent.

So how do we prevent animal suffering from hoarders if the legal system can't stop it? "Animal hoarding is the failure of the community to notice the problem and speak up," says Dr. LaFarge. What really needs to happen is the development of a community response team to identify hoarders and make sure they are not starting to relapse.

In the end, it takes a whole community to prevent harm to animals. If you suspect someone is a hoarder, call your local humane society and ask to speak with an animal control officer..." More