Elderly Couple Found Under Mounds of Trash

May 26, 2010

Another elderly couple has been found under mounds of trash in Illinois: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,593564,00.html?test=latestnews

This is one more reason why more studies must be done to help hoarders know there is help for them, unconditionally.


Hoarding Misunderstood

May 1, 2010

Millions of people in the United States are hoarders. One may hoard books, papers, knick knacks, clothing, food, even animals. The average person will view this as pure laziness, sloppiness or neglect. And what they don’t understand is that hoarding is a mental disorder. Some will have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and it may or may not be genetic.

Even families who have dealt with a hoarder for many years may be extremely frustrating. They may have separated themselves from the hoarder. This can be from countless attempts to help their hoarding loved one with cleaning, financial help or embarrassment as far back as from childhood.

Socially, hoarders suffer greatly as does the rest of the family.  Spending holidays together is non existent. There are no sleepovers for children nor friends of any age that come over for visits. The hoarder and their family can barely move inside the home much less have anyone else over. If the hoarder has young children they risk losing them, even losing the home because of the excessive clutter.

Animal hoarders love animals in their own way although law enforcement disagree. Most view it as neglect or abuse. There have been cases of animal hoarders with hundreds of animals (which includes those found dead) in or around a home. Most of the animals are decimated, have diseases and live in filth. Still though, the animal hoarder believes they are doing the best they can. They believe they are saving the animals from death if they were to be sent to the animal shelter. These hoarders feel that the animals are kind and understanding unlike humans who are scathing, uncaring, misunderstood about them.

Unless the hoarder is under treatment and support the chances are very high they will repeat the pattern again. It is important for the family, friends and public to understand what hoarding is and what can be done.

Animal Hoarding Stories from Bledsoe County TN

May 1, 2010

Hidden Hoarding: RAVS Team Makes a Grisly Discovery in Rural Tennessee

RAVS Bledsoe Co., TN hoarder case
©2005 Laura Bevan

Animal hoarding is a form of neglect that occurs when people—folks who may manifest obsessive tendencies associated with mental illness—accumulate large numbers of creatures and then fail to provide proper sanitation, food, or veterinary care for them. When animal hoarding occurs in urban and suburban areas, observant neighbors often alert authorities to the problem.

But what if no one is around to notice?

In rural and underserved communities, areas that lack adequate levels of animal control and social services, detecting and preventing animal hoarding gets harder. For nearly 40 animals suffering in rural Bledsoe County, Tennessee, only a chance encounter with an HSUS Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) team in June saved them from the horrors of animal hoarding.

Suspicious Symptoms

Early this summer, a RAVS clinic was underway in Pikeville, as part of the program’s Appalachian Project. The project provides free veterinary care and spay/neuter surgeries to pets of owners who otherwise cannot afford them.

One woman brought her dog to be spayed, but at first glance, the RAVS veterinarian determined the animal was clearly in no condition for surgery. Clinic coordinator Tammy Rouse noted that the veterinarian who examined the dog found that she was suffering from severe mange and heartworm disease, all complicated by emaciation. The veterinarian’s advice was to humanely euthanize the dog and end her suffering. When Rouse discussed the dog’s condition with the owner, she learned that the woman had another dog at home in a similar state. Rouse convinced the woman to bring the other dog to the clinic for evaluation.

The second dog was in worse shape than the first. “She was covered with infected, oozing tumors, one the size of a softball,” said Rouse. “Her toenails had grown so long that she couldn’t walk.”

This dog was also emaciated. Rouse tried to determine what other animals might be in need, and offered to visit the woman’s home with some of the volunteer veterinary students.

What they found shocked even Rouse, who is seasoned in handling animal cruelty cases.

At the couple’s ramshackle mobile home, Rouse and the student volunteers found numerous dogs, most underweight and showing hair loss. There was no running water in the home; animal feces carpeted the floor, which had collapsed in places, and the couple was using bleach bottles for toilets. The homeowners allowed Rouse to take photographs, and also agreed that she could take six puppies and one adult dog to place up for adoption.

“We felt good about removing those seven dogs that day,” said Rouse, “all of whom were treated by the veterinary students out of their own pockets. But we knew we had to help the remaining animals.”

Planning the Rescue

Rouse went to Amanda Cox, the district attorney she regularly works with in Union County. After seeing the photos, Cox helped arrange a meeting with the Bledsoe County district attorney and sheriff. They agreed to prosecute, and on June 15, the Bledsoe County Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant at the property. A team comprised of several HSUS staff members, RAVS veterinarians and student volunteers, and volunteers with horse trailers helped rescue the animals.

Team members removed a rabbit, a duck, a pig, two horses, three chickens, and 30 dogs from the property, and transported them to the Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville where veterinarians and veterinary students provided health assessments and volunteers gave each animal affection and food.

Rouse credited the RAVS veterinary students who helped on the case. “We couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.

Eleven of the dogs were in such poor health that they had to be humanely euthanized. The remaining animals, however, were transferred to other animal care organizations for rehabilitation and adoption, including the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley shelter.

“None of the dogs are vicious,” HSTV’s Executive Director, Vicki Crosetti, told the Knoxville News-Sentinel, “but some of them are going to need some socialization with people. They are just frightened, and many of them are so thin they will have to put on some weight before they can be spayed or neutered.”

The defendants in the case failed to appear for their arraignment on July 6, prompting the judge to order that they be held without bond once apprehended. However, because of weak animal cruelty laws in Tennessee, the offending couple can only be charged with misdemeanors. As of July 29, authorities had yet to determine the couple’s whereabouts.

Deadly Obsession

Rouse stressed that The HSUS was seeking the involvement of adult protective services for the couple, who fit the profile of animal hoarders. Besides accumulating large numbers of animals they cannot care for, hoarders also endanger their own health by living in such squalid conditions. Many mental health professionals recognize hoarding as a form of mental illness.

“More and more communities are finding the most successful approach to animal hoarding situations involve a task force approach with officials from animal control, the local mental health agency, and code enforcement—to ensure the conditions for both the animals and humans are improved,” said HSUS Director of Animal Sheltering Issues, Kate Pullen.

Rouse also draws the connection between a lack of animal care and control services and the hoarding phenomenon.

“I’ve been involved with five more hoarder cases in eastern Tennessee since Bledsoe County,” she points out, “all of them in rural counties with no animal control.”

She surmises that when people don’t have a safe place to take unwanted animals, those animals may end up with hoarders, who take in animals well beyond their ability to care for them.

Another Animal Hoarding Case- Knoxville, TN

May 1, 2010

Knoxville Couple Charged With Animal Cruelty.

Submitted by WDEF on April 23, 2010 – 11:41am. |
Comments Below: 4

Knoxville authorities have removed more than 70 dogs from a house, charged a couple with animal cruelty, and condemned their home.

Animal control officers waded in feces up to a foot deep to rescue the animal after numerous complaints from neighbors about the stench.

Two people are in police custody, facing animal abuse charges. Officers say they found three dead dogs and many of the others were unhealthy.

Animal control says it’s the worst case of animal abuse they’ve seen in Knox county.

Animal Hoarding-Sparta,TN

April 28, 2010
In the last week, this has been the second case I have read in regards to animal hoarding. Notice they mention no charges have been filed yet. In the first case I read about the couple in the Knoxville area was charged with animal cruelty. Unless the couple is sent to have treatment there is a 100% recidivism rate, meaning they’ll do it again. They may have jail time and fees to pay but that will not stop them from moving somewhere else and repeating the pattern again. Below is the case of the animal hoarding in Sparta, TN
More than 100 dogs surrendered in White
by Laura Gwinn
2 days 2 hrs ago | 908 views | 2 2 recommendationsemail to a friendprint
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SPARTA — A Sparta woman who reportedly said she was overwhelmed by the number of dogs she had relinquished them to the White County Sheriff’s Department.White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe reported that members of the White County Humane Society tipped deputies off to a possible puppy mill operation on Corolla Road at the residence of Gayla Jackson, owner of Gayla’s Poodle Palace, last Tuesday. According to the report made by the responding deputy, he “saw several dismantled animal crates in the yard and several dogs running loose on the property.”

The deputy made contact with the owners and advised them that the sheriff’s department was there to perform a welfare check on the animals.”The deputy found approximately 80 animals on the site at that time,” Detective Chris Isom with the White County Sheriff’s Department said. “He performed a walk-through of the property, including the outbuilding, where he observed dogs of different breeds throughout the property.” Dogs were reported loose around the house and some inside cages, but did appear to have adequate food and water. There was, however, feces on the floor and throughout the residence. Other deputies and Shoupe were told of the situation and reported to the site, along with members of the Humane Society who found housing for the animals. No information on whether or not charges would be filed were not available as of press time.

A Little About Animal Hoarding

April 15, 2010

A serious and poorly understood form of hoarding is Animal Hoarding (Patronek & Nathanson, 2009). Approximately 1,500 new cases of animal hoarding occur each year.  An animal  hoarder has a need to have large amounts of animals that may include

collecting dogs, cats, goats, horses, snakes or others in excess. This leads to deteriorating conditions in which water and food become scarce. Typically there is the stench of urine and piles of feces along with carcasses of dead animals. Animal Hoarders view what they are doing as an act of love and see nothing wrong with what they are doing. Most are in denial they are doing anything wrong and cannot see that what they are doing is quite destructive and most of all, a health hazard. Most places in the US

will allow for 2-5 animals without a permit. Hoarders will collect 15, 25, 50

maybe even 100 animals. This doesn’t mean all are alive though. Law

enforcement officials and Psychiatrists do not understand much about Animal

Hoarding. Sadly there are many cases in which hoarders are punished as criminals

rather than being treated for a mental illness.  Recently I was watching an episode

of TLC’s new series, Hoarding: Buried Alive. An elderly lady and her husband

hoarded cats. It was their way of not feeling lonely and they felt useful. It was the

husband who fed the cats daily but it was the wife who was being charged with

animal cruelty and neglect. Both estimated they had around 20-30 cats and kittens.

When animal control arrived to collect up the cats and kittens they collected nearly

50 live and dead. Later when the interventionists came in to help clean and

support the husband and wife, nearly 60 carcasses were discovered.  One thing you

will find in majority of hoarders homes is garbage. The garbage may be stacked

high in the kitchen and bathroom, several feet high. Garbage that has been in the

home for long periods of time may have caused serious damage to the structure of

the home, thus making it a hazardous situation (Williams, 2000). This can cause the home to be condemned. If you ask a hoarder why they

collect things many will answer because it is comforting to

them. They feel useful when they have things that bring them comfort or knowing

that one day down the road someone will need that certain item. Throwing items

away that belongs to a hoarder can be very traumatic. Even the thought of throwing

an item away that has no use left is difficult for a hoarder to discard. Every item a

hoarder has is meaningful to them in one way or another. Sometimes there are items

in a hoarders life that have significant meaning that may be taboo

for anyone else to touch. The item can be from childhood during a critical time: a now tattered teddy bear, poster, trophy, etc.

What is Hoarding?

April 15, 2010

Hoarding or disposophobia is a mental disorder in which one will obsessively collect items and will not discard anything. These items can be books, clothing, antiques, collectables, animals and in drastic cases, food. Their apartments, homes and land become cluttered and unsanitary with items they have collected over a long period of time (Neziroglu & Bubrick, 2010). Mobility is greatly impaired by the excessive clutter leading to serious hazards. Bugs and rodents may infest the home, the structure of the home may become compromised and the utilities may be disconnected. They can be any age from a child to elderly. It can be genetic or caused by a traumatic situation.  Hoarding affects not only the hoarder themselves but also family and friends. It is also a very costly condition due to the fact that hoarders continuously purchase items unnecessarily.

Animal Hoarding

March 24, 2010

After spending some time reading and watching countless episodes of A&E’s “Hoarders” as well as TLC’s new version “Hoarding: Buried Alive” I have been able to understand more about people who hoard animals.

Animal Hoarding is when a person collects animals whether horses, goats, dogs, cats or even birds in excess. The average family that may own a few animals. People who hoard animals DO love them all as their own. It becomes a difficult task though to feed and maintain the animals and thus diseases are spread, there is contamination, property becomes destroyed, infestation of rodents and insects occur and of course animals begin to die.

Animal hoarders do not see anything wrong with what they are doing. They believe they are doing a good deed by caring for animals others have discarded and do not want to see the animals put to death or suffer by going without food. There are some who do realize that their animal hoarding has spiraled out of control but do not know where to turn. Many people are still uninformed about animal hoarding and want to “throw the book” at a hoarder immediately. Basically, the hoarder may be scared, concerned, ashamed of their hoarding that they may not do anything to alleviate the issues until they have no other choice but to make changes.

The animal hoarder can be any age though many of them are up in age, perhaps in retirement. At this time the hoarder may feel this is the only thing they have to really live for. It gives them purpose to do something good for someone else.

When an animal hoarder is confronted by the authorities and forced to clean up their property, remove the animals and/or face criminal charges, it can be devastating to them. They feel as if their sense of purpose is being taken away from them. For some it may feel as if they have no other reason to live.

Like with any other hoarders, the animal hoarder may or may not be living alone. They may feel alone but find a sense of comfort in collecting items. In this case it’s animals. Animals give the hoarder attention, don’t argue or talk back nor criticize like another human being would.

The hoarder and the family

February 13, 2010

Hoarding not only affects the hoarder themselves, but also the family members. It does not matter if the family members live with the hoarder or not.  Family members are frustrated, ashamed and even angry with the hoarding situation. In fact, there are situations in which the family members have chose to “disconnect” from the hoarding family member. This is typically after the family member has attempted numerous times to clean up the hoarders mess, deal with others such as neighbors or local government officials over the hoarding matter. They may have even invested financially in dealing with the matter only to find the hoarder has relapsed.

If the hoarder is an older family member their lives may be in jeopardy as well as their housing. If you have ever watched the A&E channel’s show Hoarders you may have seen episodes with older adults who may or may not be living alone. Some have mental disorders while others have experienced traumatizing situations resulting in their hoarding situation. In one episode an older female had been dealing with hoarding most of her life. Her son was removed from the home when he was 8 and forced to live with his older sister which was to have been temporary. This woman had already paid $30,000 in fines to the city she resided in because twice they had to come in and clean up her property. When the show hoarders came in to intervene before the city came in for the third time, the clean up crew had found two cat carcasses inside the home that the woman had no idea about.  This woman was highly offended that her neighbors had complained about the mess. She felt they were against her. When her son showed up from Seattle, Wa he had disconnected himself from his mom. As he walked in to the home he was astounded at how much more cluttered and filthy the house had become. The mother wanted him to stay with her and he obviously refused. He came because he hadn’t seen his mother in four years.

In other episodes children had become intolerant of their parents situation. They could not understand why their mother or father was having difficulty parting with a trophy or teddy bear from their childhood. The children who are grown, felt that the parents had more priority over the items that needed to be discarded than them (the children).

While it may seem this way and on the outside many view it as selfish, these hoarders DO have a mental disorder. It is severe in some to the point they don’t have any regard for anyone besides themselves and their collection. Many very important items such as picture in a frame, a teddy bear from childhood or a trophy have major significance in their life.

Perhaps a traumatizing time in child hood such as a major surgery or the death of a close family member affected them to the point that something in their life triggers that memory they are holding on to. There is no switch to automatically turn this off and the person be “normal.”

For hoarders it takes multiple ways of treatment to get them living as productive life as possible. Medication, therapy and support are three vital ways to help a hoarder. Support is by far the most challenging since by the time a hoarder accepts they need help they have already pushed family and friends away. Those people most important in their life have “disconnected” themselves from the whole situation.

Hoarding is to a point becoming accepted as a mental disorder and not someone who is just being flat out lazy. There is a lot to be learned about hoarding. With an estimated 3 million hoarders in the United States alone, it is vital that people become aware of what hoarding is and how it affects everyone.

Affects of Hoarding

February 7, 2010

Hoarding is a mental disorder that not only affects the hoarder themselves, it greatly affects the family members. Emotionally it can take a toll on family. Imagine not being able to invite family and friends over for get togethers, celebrate holidays, birthdays and other special occasions because the house is too cluttered or the plumbing doesn’t work properly. Families are not able to sit at the kitchen table to enjoy a home cooked meal. Most families of hoarders have to depend on take out food thus costing the family an enormous amount of money. Shame engulfs the hoarder and the family.

Family members and possibly the hoarders themselves are embarrassed by the clutter. They don’t want other family, friends or even the repairman to come inside and see the mess. Unless the hoarder is willing and wanting to accept help the clutter will continue to pile up resulting in serious consequences in the future. Family members also start to feel cut off from the rest of the world. Children cannot have sleep overs in fear of embarrassment or that Child Protective Services will come and take them away. Spouses or significant others are at wits end having had tried to help the hoarder by cleaning until they realize it is way too much for them to handle anymore. Financially speaking, hoarders and the families suffer sometimes serious consequences. Constant purchasing of items brings comfort to a hoarder though in the long run credit cards are maxed out, funds in bank accounts are dwindling.

Fire hazards, health hazards, structural compromises are just a few of the consequences hoarders and their families will face unless there is professional intervention. It does not matter how much family or friends do for a hoarder if one is not willing to accept help. To say that a family member is enabling the person by allowing them to continue hoarding is naive response.

Hoarders live in fear that any items they throw away, any animals they give away or food they discard may be needed later. They live with a  “just in case” attitude all the time. They feel they are acting reasonable, sometimes as if they are helpful to others having that item someone may need. However, there are some hoarders who, may have items that are special in that they will not under any circumstances get rid of or give them away.

Collecting things is a comfort for hoarders. They do not comprehend that continuously collecting things adding to their clutter cuts them off from the rest of the world. Many hoarders do not have much if any of a social life. They are isolated in their own homes. It is a financial strain to be a hoarder or the family member of a hoarder. Embarrassment is one of the biggest reasons why a hoarder will not seek out help. Families are ashamed besides feeling helpless. A hoarder must be the one to ultimately be willing to accept help and the family must be willing to provide support as the hoarder seeks out treatment. It is known that medication, therapy and support go hand in hand for a hoarder to become a productive, healthy person again.