Last Friday, Greeley police reported finding 102 animals in a house including 30 dead cats, 52 live ones and rabbits, rats, 10 dogs and two guinea pigs. No one was home at the time.
In late July, more than 400 animals were rescued from a suspected hoarding situation at a West Oahu, Hawaii, property.
Days later, authorities found 260 living and dead Chihuahuas in a garbage-strewn Dearborn, Mich. home.
Sound familiar? It should. According to the Englewood-based Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), nearly 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year.
HSUS says this abuse differs from other types of animal cruelty in that the perpetrators don’t always accept or recognize the cruelty they inflict on their animals. Rather, animal hoarders usually ardently believe they are saving or rescuing the animals they imprison.
In a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, Dale Bartlett, a spokesman for the society, said: “These people are driven to acquire animals … and quite often they believe in their hearts and souls that they are the only people who can care for a particular group of animals.”
In many instances, such as in the Dearborn case, conditions are often filthy and can lead to medical problems for the animals.
“They believe they are saving the animals’ lives when in fact when one animal is sick, they’re infecting the other animals,” Linda Lawrence, a veterinary social worker at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, told the Free Press “It just does not connect that they are hurting them.”
Dr. Gerald Shiener, a Wayne State University psychiatrist, told the paper a condition often prevalent among hoarders is obsessive compulsive disorder, which is characterized by repetitive and ritualized thoughts and actions. He said it is a serious condition that can cause a person to lose social skills.
“These people lose a sense of what’s socially appropriate,” Shiener said. “No one would live surrounded by dogs and dog feces unless they had some sort of underlying problem.”
Treatment is difficult and has a low rate of success, the HSUS says on its website. Typically a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and some type of psychopharmacological intervention is recommended..." More