Monday, November 15, 2010

Animal hoarding can result in great suffering

By: Bonney Brown

Collecting is a hobby (think stamps or toy trains), but hoarding is collecting to the extreme (think newspapers stacked to the ceiling). While hoarding can result in health and safety hazards, in the case of animals, it can also result in great suffering.

Dr. Gary Patronek of Tufts University explains animal hoarding as a "pathological human behavior that involves a compulsive need to obtain and control animals, coupled with a failure to recognize their suffering."

Not all cases of keeping large numbers of animals qualify as hoarding. Some people are able to care for large numbers of pets, others just get in over their head. Experts have defined criteria to distinguish hoarding from legitimate rescue efforts or simply having more than the typical number of pets.

Hoarders typically:

» Have a large number of pets coupled with a failure to provide adequate care. Animals might not get enough food, live in unsanitary conditions or suffer from untreated illness or injuries.

» Deny their inability to provide appropriate care for the animals. They are oblivious to the conditions in the home and the resulting suffering of the animals.

One researcher wrote: "Standing in 3 inches of feces and in plain view of dying dogs, the woman said, 'I love my babies. I protect them.'"

» Persist in accumulating animals and are resistant to seeking help and to finding new homes for their pets.

The stereotype of an animal hoarder is an older woman, living alone, and while there is some validity to this generalization, there have been hoarders of all ages, male as well as female, married couples and even professionals with successful careers. Many hoarders are secretive, leading a double life.

The case that unfolded this week in Sparks is the most recent example, but it is not the largest. In 2007, there was a case in Gabbs, Nev., where an elderly woman passed away leaving more than 80 dogs. In 2006, there was a Reno woman with 1,600 pet rabbits in her backyard..." More

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