A Little About Animal Hoarding

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.

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