Wednesday, February 9, 2011

NY Bill Targets Hoarding - AB 191

A bill that is characterized as "anti-hoarding" has been introduced in theNew York legislature. AB 191 states, "Across the country, there is an increasing incidence of cases where large numbers of companion animals are seized from individuals who lack the ability to provide them with the basics of life - clean place to live, adequate food and water and
necessary veterinary care.

"The living conditions in many of these cases are not just marginal - frequently they fall well below accepted standards for either companion animals or human beings.

"Severe overcrowding, excessive feces, dirt, garbage, dangerous levels of ammonia from urine-saturated surfaces, animals that plainly suffer from parasite infestation, upper respiratory infections, and other ailments and owners or custodians that neither fully recognize nor are capable of remedying the situation."

"Sadly, these companion animal 'hoarding' cases are also frequently
accompanied by self neglect and neglect of other people living in the
household - particularly children and the elderly. When authorities do
intervene, the cost - in terms of both animal suffering and government
expenditure - is substantial. Animals removed from hoarding situations
are often too debilitated, sick or injured to be helped. When they are
able to be rehabilitated, the cost of housing, food and veterinary care
can be extremely high."

It is not clear that in all cases the hoarders "neither fully recognize nor are capable of remedying" the situation. Indeed, some appear to be malicious, narcissistic, and criminal in their attitude towards these animals. Either way, an anti-hoarding or strong animal cruelty law can prevent much suffering and prevent a reccurence.

What the bill would do

A 191 would create the crime of "companion animal hoarding". A person is guilty of "companion animal hoarding when he or she owns, possesses, or has custody of more companion animals than he or she can properly care for". This is defined as "more than twenty-five companion animals living in conditions that are likely to jeopardize the health and well being of the animals and/or human beings living in the house- hold as evidenced by:

(a) keeping the companion animals in a severely overcrowded living environment likely to endanger their health or safety;

(b) failure maintain his or her living environment in a sanitary condition such as to pose a serious risk to the health or safety of the companion animals and/or people living in that environment."

"Failure to provide a sufficiently sanitary living environment may be evidenced by conditions such as excessive feces, urine, dirt, garbage or a lack of basic services that make a home habitable such as heat, hot water, ventilation or electricity; and

"(c) the presence of companion animals that, without justification, have not received necessary veterinary treatment within a reasonable period of time."

A court must order a hoarder to undergo a mental health evaluation and, if appropriate, mental health treatment. The court may order the hoarder to stay away from animals for a period deemed reasonable.

Under current law the police or spca agents already have authority upon obtaining a search warrant, to seize animals "which for more than twelve successive hours has been confined or kept in a crowded or unhealthy condition or in unhealthful or unsanitary surroundings or not properly cared for or without necessary sustenance, food or drink". NY Ag & Mkts Sec. 373. There is no requirement to wait until the situation is as deteriorated or as abusive to animals as described in the bill. The animal cruelty laws including Sec. 373 would remain applicable.

It is important to keep abusers away from animals particularly in situations like this. For more on other states that permit or even require judges to order animal abusers to stay away from animals.... This bill also recognizes the importance of mental health evaluation and treatment in cases of hoarding. Go here for information about a WY anti-hoarding bill and anti-hoarding laws in Illinois and Hawaii. To prevent recividism, it would make sense to require the hoarder to submit to periodic inspections by animal control or the ocal health department.

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