Friday, April 23, 2010

Animal Hoarding

By Sharon H.

Sensational stories ripple through the news of homes filled with an untold number of cats or dogs. These stories wrench our hearts with visions of dead animals, filthy homes, and a person who desperately loves each animal living in the abode. What is wrong with this picture?

Hoarders collect animals much like other individuals collect glass figurines, pretty plates or baseball caps. It's often based on intense love for a species that eventually spirals out of control. Hoarding includes both animals and things (newspapers, books, clothes or just plain stuff). Birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, pigs, horses, cows: any type of animal can be hoarded for the wrong reasons.

Hoarding is a growing concern in the fight to prevent animal cruelty and the burgeoning pet population. Rescue organizations across the country assist animal shelters in the placement of adoptive animals. Animal shelters place thousands of animals each year into new, loving homes. These efforts can be thwarted by the rampant reproduction of hoarded animals in a home.

Hoarding Truths

Very rarely does a hoarder have the financial ability, time and knowledge to provide adequate care for a large number of animals. Vet care is often non-existent. Hoarded animals often live with incredible filth as well as dead, dying and ill animals as close neighbors in a confined environment.

Between 700 and 2,000 hoarding cases are reported each year in the United States. Sixty percent of these cases involve repeat offenses. The Humane Society of the United States recognizes that hoarders have almost a 100 percent chance of a repeat offense.

A multi-pronged effort to remove animals and provide proper rehabilitative care for the hoarder provides the best chance to limit future incidences. Many states have laws to deal directly with animal hoarders. Hoarders can be anyone including professionals, vets, rescue families, the elderly or the next door neighbor.

Benevolence vs. Hoarding

A few markers indicate a propensity to hoard animals. Hoarders may be lonely due to the loss of a family member or may suffer depression. Financial or job changes often cause individual struggles. We all know the comfort that a beloved animal brings to a two-legged pet parent. Other individuals simply collect animals in a desperate attempt to assuage an inner need. And the animals suffer terribly.

Benevolence often finds a pet lover in too deep with four-legged friends. That's a considerably different situation than hoarding. A person in this situation finds suitable homes for the animals while recognizing that the expense, time and maintenance of so many animals didn't work for either party. A hoarder doesn't acknowledge the inability to care for the vast number of animals in a home...." More