Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Animal hoarding: Indentifying the disease

The welfare of animals is very important in American society, and American families own more pets today than ever before.
According to the 2011-2012 American Pets Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of American households own a pet, which equates to 72.9 million homes. Unfortunately, of those pets there are hundreds of new animal hoarding cases each year.
Animal hoarding is a prevalent topic in mainstream television today due to the popular cable network shows. Even though the public is more aware of this issue, it is still a very cryptic and confusing topic for many to comprehend. The lack of studies and information about this disease make it a hard one to diagnose and treat.
“There have been a variety of definitions for animal hoarding produced over the years, but there are common themes in how it is typically conceptualized,” says Dr. Derek Bergeron, psychologist for Texas A&M University Counseling Services and satellite clinician at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Generally, animal hoarding is indicated by the accumulation of a large number of animals, overwhelming a person’s ability to provide minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation and veterinary care. Typically, failure to acknowledge the deteriorating condition of the animals (including disease, starvation and even death) and the household environment (severe overcrowding, very unsanitary conditions) is demonstrated. Similarly, there is typically a failure to recognize the negative effect of the collection on the hoarder’s own health and well-being and on the well-being of any other household members.”
According to Bergeron, animal hoarders can cut across many demographics. However, some studies suggest that animal hoarders are more likely to be female, elderly, isolated and on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Also, most hoarders have been identified with a comorbid mental health condition, such as depression or a panic disorder.
As the group of people likely to be animal hoarders is so diverse, it is also hard to decipher their motives and to put them into distinct groups. The best attempt made by researchers is to place the hoarders into three groups: overwhelmed caregiver, rescue hoarder and exploiter hoarder.
The overwhelmed caregiver generally arises out of a dramatic event, such as the loss of a loved one, economic hardship or a health scare. The individual may already have many animals and cannot take care of them over time or will choose to take on more animals to mask the pain and to avoid dealing with the situation.
“The overwhelmed caregiver type is likely to be more situational, and these individuals typically have more insight into the situation,” notes Bergeron. “They understand that there is a problem, which is why they feel overwhelmed. These individuals generally feel a strong attachment to their animal, which makes addressing the situation more difficult for them.”
Rescue hoarders feel that they have a mission in life to save and protect animals. These individuals are often actively engaged in rescue work, and they may even own a shelter.
“Rescue hoarders often believe that they are the only people who can adequately care for their animals and feel that animals would die without them,” says Bergeron. “These hoarders have a strong need for control and do feel in control of the situation despite the problems that exist.”
The exploiter hoarders generally lack empathy for people and animals and are indifferent to the harm they cause. Their main concern is to be in control.
“Exploiter hoarders do not feel a strong attachment to their animals, unlike the other two hoarder categories,” says Bergeron. “Rather, their hoarding behaviors are motivated by a need for control. They have a strong need to feel dominant and to be the expert. Hoarding animals is the outlet they have found to meet all of their needs.”
Animal hoarding does not happen overnight. It is a behavior that develops over time, and people continue this behavior because it serves a role for them. The function hoarding serves is typically related to regulating emotional needs, and very likely involves other mental health problems.
Most hoarders do not recognize their behavior as irregular. However, the hoarders who do recognize their behaviors as atypical, the overwhelmed caregivers, will hide their behavior out of shame and fear of possible consequences. Other hoarders may choose to hide their behavior, even though they don’t recognize their hoarding is dangerous or different..."  More

28 dogs seized from Pinal County home

By Breann Bierman

Dozens of dogs have been removed from a home in the Apache Junction area after Pinal County authorities say they found the animals "caked with feces" and had urine-soaked towels inside their cages.
Officers responded to the home after a case worker with Child Protective Services reported seeing an animal skull in the front of the home. The case worker also reported a strong smell of urine, kennels filled with feces and no water or food for the dogs.
Pinal County got a search warrant on Dec. 14 and after seeing the conditions the 28 dogs, mostly Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, were living in they were removed by Pinal County Animal Care and Control officers.
Four of the caged animals were pregnant and one other dog had recently given birth to puppies.
"The resident had, at one time, obtained a kennel permit. The permit lapsed earlier in the year," Animal Care and Control Director Kaye Dickson said. "The permit allowed them to have up to 20 animals on the premises. The owner clearly was not in compliance with the permit and was not providing humane care and proper treatment for the animals, including basic food and water. Some of the statements the pet's owner made to our officers lead us to believe that some these dogs were being used in a puppy mill breeding operation."
The case remains under investigation..."  More

Dozens of dogs, reptiles removed from Scottsdale home

by Catherine Holland and Jared Dillingham

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In yet another case of animal hoarding, the Arizona Humane Society removed 46 animals from a Scottsdale home Tuesday, including more than two dozen small-breed dogs and about a dozen reptiles.
Police were first called to the house in the neighborhood northeast of Scottsdale and McDowell roads by the homeowner herself, but that call had nothing to do with her animals. Rather, the woman, whose name has not been released, believed her significant other had violated an order of protection she had against him.
That initial call from the homeowner turned into something unexpected -- an apparent case of animal hoarding.  Responding officers called conditions inside "repulsive."
When police responded to the woman's domestic-situation call Monday, they discovered that she had dozens of animals and that the inside of the home was layered with feces and urine.
Because Monday was a holiday, they were unable to do anything about the situation right away.
Scottsdale police returned to the home Tuesday with AHS personnel and together they removed 29 small-breed dogs, including Shih tzus, chihuahuas, Maltese, dachshunds and Lhasa Apsos. They also seized four snakes, 11 tortoises, and a few turtles..."  More & video

Monday, December 26, 2011

Snakes, a monkey, and a lynx among animals seized from home

Dozens of animals, including many exotic ones, were discovered in a North Knox County home Monday.
According to the Knox County Sheriff's Office, their officers, along with TWRA, executed a search warrant at 139 Water Road in Heiskell.
They discovered at least a hundred animals in bad living conditions. They included a lynx in a cage in the back yard, a large monkey in a bird cage in the living room, multiple venomous reptiles, dogs, cats, and numerous non-venomous snakes. Many of the animals were illegal wildlife.
Knox County Codes Enforcement was also called to the scene and condemned the residence after an inspection.
The animals are being fostered by several agencies including Tiger Haven, the Young-Williams Animal Shelter, and other facilities..."  More

Devon pet owner Diana Curtis has 34 dogs and 14 horses seized

Diana Curtis, 53, of Peters Marland, had dogs seized in 2010 and was given an Anti-social Behaviour Order (Asbo).
She was told that she could keep 14 animals, but last week pleaded guilty to breaching the Asbo and is now only allowed to keep six dogs.
The RSPCA said it was considering if any animal welfare offences had been committed and whether to prosecute.
'Sympathy factor'
Torridge District Council said 14 dogs could remain on-site until 10 January, after which time if she still had any more than six dogs, the rest would be removed.
Curtis said: "[It's] totally out of proportion - they weren't that noisy, they might bark some times of the time day but they're not barking constantly..."  More

Monday, December 19, 2011

Animal Services wins custody of 54 dogs—and one cat

Loudoun County Animal Services is now preparing 54 dogs and one cat for adoption after a four-month long struggle to win their custody from their owner, Bonita Clark of Annapolis, Md. The animals were seized from a property in Purcellville on Aug. 5 when visiting Animal Control officers were shocked to find them living amid such squalid conditions.

Under Circuit Court Judge James Chamblin’s ruling on Dec. 16, custody over the animals was removed from Clark and granted to the county. Additionally, Clark must pay for the care of the surrendered animals and is barred from animal ownership in VA for the next two years. She must return to court in January, where she will be tried for violating the County Kennel Ordinances. For each of the 20 counts she is charged with, Clark faces up to $2,500 in fines and as many as 12 months of jail time..."  More

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nannie Johnson - Alabama

Dec 14, 2011:  Woman accused of hoarding dead dogs found not guilty

Nannie Johnson was found not guilty of animal cruelty by reason of mental defect at a hearing in Limestone County Tuesday morning.

Johnson, charged with 43 counts of animal cruelty, was accused of hoarding dozens of dead and live animals on her property.

Tuesday's hearing was to determine if she needed to be committed to a mental facility.

The prosecution and her attorney agreed previously that Johnson had a mental defect at the time of the crime brought on by a series of mini strokes.

Johnson has since been treated for that defect through the VA. A forensic psychologist testified that Johnson is now on medication and does not pose a threat to herself or the community as long as she maintains treatment.

At Tuesday's hearing, a state psychiatrist testified Johnson has been receiving treatment and medication for a severe mental disorder, that she is doing well, and does not need to be committed to a mental facility.

"We think that's a good thing. As a veteran, she suffers from mental illness, and we want her to get the treatment she needs," said Harlan Mitchell, Johnson's attorney.

"She's being allowed to return home. In the event that her medicine doesn't work, or her medical condition deteriorates, we'll be back in court," said Limestone County District Attorney, Brian Jones.

Johnson will continue her treatment through the VA. They will send a report to the Limestone County court system every 90 days..."  More & video

May 18, 2010: Trial set for woman accused of hoarding dead animals

A woman accused of hoarding dozens of dead and live animals on her property will go before a judge this summer.
Nannie Johnson's bench trial is scheduled for July 7th in Limestone County.
Investigators said Johnson had more than 40 dead dogs in a freezer at her Elkmont home.
Dozens more were found alive on the property.
Both prosecutors and the defense have asked the judge for a mental evaluation in this case..." More & video

Apr 15, 2010: Woman charged with animal cruelty to be evaluated

The family of an Elkmont woman charged with 43 counts of animal cruelty has sent her to a treatment facility for a psychological evaluation.
Limestone County District Attorney Kristi Valls on Wednesday said the state agreed with the action by 63-year-old Nannie Johnson's family.
Sheriff's department officials found 42 dead dogs in freezers and one dead in a kennel earlier this month at a puppy mill run by Johnson.
Authorities rescued 29 dogs, three of which have since died because they were malnourished.
Johnson's arraignment is set for May 9, but Valls said the date is contingent on the completion of her psychological evaluation..." More

Apr 6, 2010: Officers investigate illegal puppy mill

By Bobby Shuttleworth

Officials are investigating an illegal puppy mill where more than two dozen dead dogs were stored in a freezer.
Limestone County Sheriff's Investigator Eric King talked to suspect Nannie Johnson late Monday afternoon.
"I'd asked her about the number of dogs in the freezer, she said she hadn't had time to bury them," said King.
King said he also asked her why so many dogs died.
"She said, 'yea, something's wrong with it. The devil's killing them,'" King said..." More

Apr 6, 2010: Dogs confiscated from Limestone puppy mill are finding homes

By Bobby Shuttleworth
Several dogs confiscated from a puppy mill in Limestone County are beginning to find new homes. Phones at the Dog Pound in Athens where the dogs were taken have been ringing off the hook.
People have been calling and stopping by interested in giving these pitiful creatures a loving home, but the dogs have to be ready.
"We use a series of tests seeing if they are human aggressive to food aggressive to animal aggressive. And if we see problems in those areas we can work on those problems when we go through socialization steps," said Jim Lovell.
A dog that shows no signs of aggression will be a good pet, especially if the home includes children.
Lovell said each dog is different and problems vary. They are also trying to get these dogs on the road to good health.
"They don't have to have all their problems corrected before adoption," said Lovell. "We are basically talking with everybody who is adopting each animal and reviewing with them the necessities with every animal has and problems that animal had."
"Your heart breaks for them so you really want to touch out for them. I mean they can't tell you how much they are hurting, what they need. We're able to provide it so why not," said one person at the shelter to adopt a dog.
Each prospective owner will be given a very detailed evaluation of their new pet.
Limestone County deputies arrested 63-year-old Nannie Johnson for the suspected abuse..." More

Apr 5, 2010: Dozens of dead dogs found in woman's freezer

Limestone County authorities said an Elkmont woman was operating a puppy mill and keeping dead dogs in her freezer.
Sheriff's Department investigator Eric King said 63-year-old Nannie Johnson was charged with 43 counts of cruelty to animals after 43 dogs were found dead at her home on Friday.
King said one dog was dead in a kennel and the remainder were wrapped in plastic and stored in Johnson's freezer.
Officials say 29 dogs were found alive, but three have since died.
The surviving dogs are emaciated and suffer from parasites.
"She has, in the past, genuinely raised animals and has sold animals. I just don't know if she just became overwhelmed and unable to tend to the animals properly, but whatever the case it was pretty bizarre," said Stanley McNatt with the Sheriff's Department...." More

Helping or Hoarding? County Seizes Hundreds of Birds from Mountain Property

by Tyler Hayden

Santa Barbara authorities seized more than 400 birds from a West Camino Cielo ranch this Saturday, accusing the owner of hoarding and neglecting the animals kept on her secluded property. In addition to the birds – hens, roosters, turkeys, guinea hens, doves, and pigeons – a cat, two dogs, and an alpaca were also taken.

The property owner, Sandy Coupal, contends the birds were well cared for, always provided clean water and high-protein food, and housed in spacious aviaries. She said she’s helped by a few volunteers and takes in aging birds that wouldn’t be adopted at a shelter and would instead be euthanized. Calling her property a sanctuary for unwanted or displaced animals, Coupal – who is a retiree from UCSB’s study abroad program – sees the crackdown as retaliation after she, with the help of an attorney, successfully thwarted the county’s attempt three years ago to confiscate her animals.

Jan Glick, director of County Animal Services, which led Saturday’s raid, said her department recently received a complaint from a concerned citizen. The person said they witnessed a large amount of animals on the property and was worried about the care being provided to them. After an Animal Services representative and a sheriff’s deputy inspected the ranch on December 2, the county obtained a signed search warrant and returned on December 10, armed with nets, cages, and a line of trucks. Personnel rounded up the birds and transported them to the Humane Society in Goleta, where they are being held..."  More

Monday, December 12, 2011

Knowing when to step in

Towns have several factors to consider when dealing with families living in dilapidated conditions, and pets only complicate the situation

By George Houde

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when things went from bad to worse for Sharon and Terry Jones.
But three years after her husband lost his job, Sharon Jones admitted the problems were piling up. The plumbing and the hot water heater stopped working in the modest Streamwood home the couple shared with their disabled adult daughter. The sewer would back up into the bathtub, leaving the family to use bedpans instead of toilets. They took sponge baths by heating water on the stove.
Then last summer the village intervened, citing the Joneses for living in unsanitary conditions, among other alleged violations. The home was declared unfit for occupancy by humans — not to mention the pugs kept by the family — which, by the Joneses' count, once numbered at least 28 and, one village official said, weren't housebroken.
But even with the prospect of the village-imposed fines adding up, the family refused to give up the dozen or so pugs that remained after a rescue group got involved and removed a large number of dogs..."  More

Elaine Jewell, Animal Rescue Foundation - Mississippi

Dec 11, 2011:  Some of Rescued Dogs Have to Be Euthanized

by Paulo Salazar 

It's a classic case of dog hoarding that led to the rescue of more than a 100 dogs that were living in less than suitable conditions.
Tuesday, Noxubee County's Elaine Jewell had more than 100 dogs seized from her non-profit organization called Animal Rescue Foundation. She claims she took the animals in to help but quickly got overwhelmed.
Authorities from the Humane Society of the United States say as many as 200 animals could have been living on the property. Sadly Saturday, 14 of those rescues had to be euthanized because the were in such bad shape from medical or behavioral needs or both, according to Lydia Sattler, Mississippi director.  Some have undergone surgery and others are being treated for diseases and various injuries.
Jewell doesn't face any charges, however she will be subjected to monthly monitoring for future animal hoarding..."  Link

Dec 11, 2011:  Humane Society seizes more than 100 dogs

Jessica Bakeman

More than 100 dogs - some covered in bite wounds, suffering from broken bones, or with itchy or swollen skin - were rescued this week from a home near Macon that was meant to be their refuge. 

Elaine Jewell, president of a 14-year-old nonprofit organization called Animal Rescue Foundation, intended to care for and shelter unwanted or stray animals at her home but became overwhelmed.

Personnel from the Humane Society of the United States, who led the rescue Tuesday, seized 108 dogs, and rescuers are still trying to capture five others. They estimate at one time as many as 200 were living on the property.

Of those dogs, 16 had to be euthanized because their injuries or illnesses were not treatable or they were aggressive and dangerous, having never been touched by humans.

Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine is treating 10 others, including a dog with a painful ear infection and another whose femur had been broken and hip dislocated for what looked like weeks. That dog required surgery..."  More

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cuyahoga County task force aims to help people who hoard

By Dave Davis
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Gerald VanBolt paid for his hoarding with his life.
The 68-year-old Brooklyn man, who was divorced and living alone, had piled so much stuff in his Winter Lane home that firefighters responding to an emergency call just before midnight on Oct. 31 were unable to get inside through either the front or back doors.
Emergency crews arrived at VanBolt's home within 4 minutes of receiving a call from a neighbor, but they were forced to wait the fire out, breaking windows to provide ventilation and spraying water in through bedroom windows, hoping to put out the flames and protect the occupant..."  More

Experts say there may be thousands of problem hoarders in Cuyahoga County. Do you know someone at one of these stages?
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200 Animals Seized from Doublewide Trailer

Lari Barager

AUBREY, Texas - Authorities seized nearly 200 animals this week at a reported puppy mill in Denton County.

Sheriff’s Captain Mike Caley says there were 149 small-breed dogs living in a feces and urine-soaked doublewide trailer in Aubrey.

The dogs were stacked in crates two and three high, with several dogs in each.

There were also 35 chickens -- which authorities say were severely malnourished -- three rabbits, two cats and two goats.
The property owners, Martin and Sharon Cooper, are being charged with animal cruelty..."  More

Monday, December 5, 2011

24 Cats Found in Pickup Truck in Washington


There were two dozen cats, a dog and a human being traveling quite uncomfortably through town in a pickup truck’s two-seat cab Nov. 14.

Vehicle Broke Down

When the vehicle broke down at the Washington Congregational Church, tow truck drivers refused to haul it away without professional assistance in handling the dog and 24 cats, two of whom were pregnant.

Once Animal Control Officer Cyndy Brissett appeared, even she was taken aback by this curious case of animal hoarding in transit.

“It’s more of a sad story than anything,” said Ms. Brissett, who, because of the nature of the situation, declined to provide information about the person or the circumstances. “It’s a very unfortunate set of circumstances,” she noted..."  More