by Keith Somers,
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Animal hoarding, while most of us have never heard of it, is on the increase! Believe it or not! Those “collected” range in species from cats and dogs, to reptiles, rodents, birds, exotics and even farm animals.
It is at once a complex issue on three levels:
- animal cruelty;
- mental health and;
- public safety.
An Animal Cruelty Issue
The figures are difficult to obtain, for obvious reasons. The experts who deal with the problem—the ASPCA, the ALDF, the HARC, the HSUS, and dozens of local rescue groups, say that animal hoarding is increasing in the United States as much as 20% annually. They all agree that up to a quarter million animals (250,000) a year are victims of animal hoarding.
The term “animal hoarding” refers to the compulsive need to collect and own animals for the sake of caring for them that results in accidental or unintentional neglect and abuse. In the vast majority, most cases of animal hoarding result in animal cruelty.
A Mental Health Issue
Most animal hoarding is done by a single person who has:
- chosen to live alone
- problems acquiring, handling, managing, and getting rid of animals;
- cleverly hidden their activities so that they are never reported to mental health professionals and animal control authorities, except when others complain;
- difficulty making simple decisions;
- every intention of providing full care for the animals;
- an intense emotional attachment for each animal they care for;
- great difficulty coming to understand that their love for their animals is, little by little, destroying their home, their furniture and their lives by having too many animals to care for;
- confused their loving the animals with the reality of their inability to provide a safe, clean, and healthy home for them;
- neglected their own health, nutrition, and social life because they spend all their time, money, and energy caring for their animals;
- become overwhelmed and trapped by their indecision and sense of responsibility and are often deprived of sleep;
- been overcome by animal waste, and can suffer health problems created by the odor of ammonia, fleas, tics and animal-borne illnesses;
- unknowingly become the caretaker of all of the animals who lie and die in an environment of neglect, filth, and stressful overcrowding, as innocent prisoners of well-intentioned but misguided love.
A Public Safety Issue
Animal hoarding is a complex and intricate issue with far-reaching effects that poses significant safety, health and financial concerns for any community. These include:
- fire hazards from extreme clutter;
- decaying or damaged electrical wiring;
- blockage of exits from dwelling;
- lack of running water and electricity;
- infestation from rodents or insects;
- potential for spread of zoonotic diseases;
- heavy accumulations of feces and urine can damage dwellings beyond repair, making them structurally unsound;
- a release of a host of potentially toxic bioaerosols and gases into the air, creating dangerous odor problems;
- disease exposure occurring through inhalation, contact, or via insects—flies, fleas, tics, and lice;
- failure of functional sanitary codes in kitchen and bathroom facilities;
- communities left to cover the costs of investigating, rescuing, treating, housing, feeding, and in some cases euthanizing animals;
- additional costs for the hoarder, for housing, hospitalization, medical and psychiatric treatment, legal services, public defenders and incarceration, if necessary.
The following article is a recent example of animal hoarding, edited from several news accounts dated: Tuesday, October 28, 2014.
What started as a call to check on the safety of a woman ended with troopers removing 80 of 150 cats from a River Road home in Pleasantdale, NY, on Tuesday. Fire department, troopers and humane society workers will return on Wednesday to get the remaining 70 cats, including a number of cats in the walls.
“The house is in a deplorable condition. This is not what we expected to find,” one of the troopers said.
State Police didn’t identify the woman, but Brad Shear, executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, said she and her sisters had been involved in previous cat hoarding reports in Schaghticoke, Halfmoon and Vermont. “This makes 450 cats,” Shear said of the total in four incidents in four years.
Two of the three sisters who may have lived in or frequented the house, were stopped in 2010 by police in Bennington, VT, with 77 cats living in two cars.
Trooper Jeff Wait carried out the welfare check on Tuesday. After he found the cats, State Police secured a search warrant for the River Road residence.
Troopers and Mohawk-Hudson workers wore white hazmat suits and were to be decontaminated because of the infestation of fleas in the house. The Rensselaer County Decontamination Team vehicle was sent to the scene.
The shelter needs canned cat food to feed the cats and money to buy antibiotics. The food and money can be dropped off at the shelter at 3 Oakland Ave. in Menands, NY 12204, phone: 518-434-8128, or donations can be made through www.mohawkhumane.org.
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