Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Animal Hoarding

By Patrick Battuello

“Providing care is a pretext. The animals give them a sense of omnipotence, literally a power over life and death. This is not about caring for the animals… it’s about a human need [filled] through the animals.” (Dr. Gary Patronek, leading expert on animal hoarding)

In my last post, I referred to Virginia Robinson as a hoarder. A cursory reflection on that word implies benign or, at the very least, innocuous intentions. But like rampaging cancer cells that ravage a body, animal hoarding consumes the hoarder and, more importantly, destroys the hoarded. In a word, stockpiling animals like so many Precious Moments figurines creates a malignancy that should command more attention than a dismissive shake of the head at the crazy cat lady.

Animal hoarding is a growing problem that, until recently, was not given due study into its causes and ramifications. The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC), based in Massachusetts, was an informal professional group active from 1997-2006. Each of the members drew on their substantial experience in their respective fields (psychiatry, psychology, social work, veterinary medicine, and animal protection) to delve deep into a complex social issue. They define AH thus:

-More than the typical number of companion animals

-Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, …often resulting in starvation, illness, and death

-Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling..." More