Thursday, July 15, 2010

Advocates Call For Strict Pa. Animal Hoarding Laws

Reporting Ben Simmoneau

Animal advocates say Pennsylvania law needs to change if officials are going to be able to stop the growing problem of animal hoarding.

Already this week, officers from the
Pennsylvania SPCA have raided two Philadelphia homes and confiscated nearly 200 animals.

In a home on Mascher Street Tuesday, officials found the remains of 30 dead animals and 90 more alive.

Two dead dogs were found along side 85 live Chihuahuas and two cats in a home on Earp Street in South Philadelphia Wednesday. SPCA officer George Bengal says that home was the worst he's seen in 20 years of work....

..."Years ago – and I'm going back probably 10 or more years ago – you got maybe one or two a year," he said. Now, SPCA officers average about one or two per month.

Bengal says part of the problem is that Pennsylvania law does not mention hoarding at all. Right now, most hoarders just receive summary citations – comparable to traffic tickets.

If dead animals are found, hoarders can be charged with crimes, but only misdemeanors, officials say.

And there's nothing to mandate psychological treatment, even though psychologists say animal hoarders are clearly mentally ill.

"Usually it's a sense of personal responsibility, that it's their responsibility to make sure that the animals are taken care of," said Dr. Marla Deibler, a psychologist who specializes in hoarding. They believe if they don't take care of the animals "then they would be responsible for them being mistreated."

"We now are typically asking for psychological evaluations through the court system so they can get some type of mandatory help," said Bengal. But until the law changes, judges do not have to comply with that request.

"The bigger picture with this is to actually get help with the individuals," Bengal said. "To me, that's a huge win-win for us and also for the individuals."..."

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