Monday, December 6, 2010

A different way to stop animal hoarders


It happened again the last week of November at a house in the 300 block of East Swallow Drive in Fort Collins. The front yard was a tangled mess of household items, now just trash.

There was nobody home; the owner was believed to have left following a home foreclosure.

But there was life inside: More than 50 cats and kittens, in various states of health, had been left behind. As authorities moved in, the Larimer Humane Society began it’s work.

“The cats and kittens were rescued from deplorable living conditions,” said a press release from the shelter. “All rescued felines have been taken to Larimer Humane Society where they are currently undergoing extensive behavioral and health evaluations to determine if they are suitable candidates for adoption.”

The animals, rightfully, got the immediate attention. But that won’t stop future hoarding situations. Is there a way to break the cycle itself?

An article by Katie Burns in the Dec. 15 edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests a potentially effective way to go about it.

Dealing with animal hoarding should be about helping the hoarders as well as the animals, social workers who consult on such cases told the author.

“Without counseling, you’re going to see recidivism,” said Jane N. Nathanson, a Boston social worker in private practice who counsels animal hoarders. “You’re not addressing the needs of the person.”

In some cases, Nathanson said, the animals might need immediate rescue. In others, she said, local authorities or humane organizations might try to gain the cooperation of the hoarder.

Burns talso talked to Jennifer A. Coffey, a New York City social worker who collaborated with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on cases.

Coffey and an ASPCA representative assessed hoarding in terms of human and animal welfare, Burns said. They interceded in cases of “overwhelmed caregivers” rather than cases of “exploitive hoarders,” Coffey said.
Participation was voluntary.

The team then methodically began working with the hoarder to:

*Stop animal reproduction, A veterinarian in a mobile clinic did free spay/neuter surgeries.

*Get the hoarder to voluntarily relinquish animals over time. The most adoptable went to rescue groups.

*Connect hoarders with cleaning and counseling services.

*Monitor and make sure hoarders did not acquire more animals.

Nathanson said hoarders lack adequate human relations and having more animals will make them feel better.

She thinks society has become more aware of the issue of animal hoarding and is beginning to realize that the hoarders need assistance as much as the animals...: More

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