Inside Animal Hoarding

    Animal hoarding jars communities across America on a daily basis with approximately 1500 new cases discovered each year, according to Dr. Patronek, Tufts University Professor.

    Thousands of animals suffer and some die in squalid surroundings, devoid of adequate food and water, yet, the owners insist nothing is wrong. Standing in three inches of feces, breathing acrid ammonia in the air, and in plain view of dead and dying dogs, one woman said, “I never hurt any dogs, I love my babies. The fact is I protect them.”

    Conditions often become extreme before law enforcement officials can glean enough evidence for a search warrant. “The biggest problem is we are never allowed access to the house until it becomes so severe that something tragic happens,” says Undersheriff Brian Wolfe of the Malheur County Sheriffs Office in Oregon . Communities are left to cover the cost of rescuing, treating, housing, feeding, and in some cases euthanizing the animals. Additional financial costs for incarceration and public defenders add to the burden.

    “Although the case of a dog being violently killed is shocking, in animal hoarding cases the suffering can be felt by hundreds of animals for months and months on end,” said Randall Lockwood, Ph.D.

    Close friends and families, generally the first to know when the act of ‘loving animals’ changes to ‘hoarding animals,’ seldom have the information and understanding needed to effectively intervene. Learning about animal hoarding, understanding its characteristics, how it develops, interventions, and preventions can help both the people involved and the animals.

    Early intervention is the key to preventing the suffering caused by animal hoarding; yet, those who see the neglect in its early stages (friends, relatives, neighbors) often misunderstand it and fail to report it until conditions become tragic. Obsessive hoarding consumes all available resources of time, money, and emotion; and eventually squeezing family and friends out of the picture. Taking action early on, while the door is still open

    Intervention can come in many forms but must be thoughtful and respectful. Jane Nathanson’s article Animal Hoarding: Recommendations for Intervention by Families and Friends is a good resource for this.

    Obsessive hoarding consumes all available resources of time, money, and emotion; squeezing family and friends out of the picture. Social isolation sets in as acquaintances eventually become exasperated and give up their failed attempts to help. People who hoard animals may use them to fulfill emotional needs that had been previously met by human interaction, according to recent studies. Close friends and families, generally the first to know when the act of ‘loving animals’ changes to ‘hoarding animals,’ seldom have the information and understanding needed to effectively intervene.

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