Thursday, October 6, 2011

Animal hoarding a dangerous emotional issue


It is a cruel paradox.
Animal hoarders, some of the most prolific perpetrators of shocking animal neglect, are people who think of themselves as animal lovers, according to experts in psychology and animal advocacy.
In 2006, Collier County Domestic Animal Service officials seized 31 cats, two rabbits, two dogs and a bird from the home of a Golden Gate Estates woman, in what could be described as a classic animal hoarding case. According to the DAS report, most of the animals were underfed and sick, the floors of the house were littered with animal waste, and the smell of ammonia from cat urine was so overwhelming the investigator described a burning feeling in her eyes and lungs. Yet officials said the owner grossly underestimated the disaster her house had become and the danger to her cats.
The cats, she told an investigator, were her life and she threatened suicide if she were parted from them.
In September, a Collier judge banned another Estates woman, Tina Ciancaglini, from owning horses again after DAS officials reported she had consistently taken ownership of more horses than she could feed, leading to the malnourishment of 34 horses in July.
Researchers of animal hoarding have recently found that dealing with the problem is not as simple as freeing the animals and punishing the perpetrators. Hoarding, they say, is a behavioral disorder — not necessarily intentional criminal neglect.
The research has inspired animal services officials in Lee and Collier counties to take a multi-disciplined approach to hoarders, which includes taking the animals away, banning the person from owning animals again and trying to establish mental health counseling. In extreme cases, prosecutors may pursue criminal charges.
Under-reported and invisible
An animal hoarder is someone who collects a large number of animals but gives them substandard care, said Dr. Randy Lockwood, a psychologist who coordinates anti-cruelty initiatives with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Hoarders, he said, fail to recognize or act when the conditions of the animals begin to deteriorate.
“The denial reaches so deep that they seem oblivious to the presence of dead and dying animals,” he said.
Officials in Collier and Lee counties say they deal with a handful of animal hoarding cases each year, but those few cases force them to rehabilitate and find homes for hundreds of animals.
Adam Leath, an officer with Lee County Animal Services, suspects that cases are probably under-reported.
“Most of the time with these situations, we get involved when it’s out of control,” he said.
Nationally, numbers are hard to track, said Lockwood, partly because local governments handle and report cases differently.
One ASPCA estimate reports there could be between 900 and 2,000 new animal hoarding cases each year in the U.S., with 250,000 animals mistreated..."  More
Thanks to TF for forwarding this article

No comments: