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ANIMAL HOARDING

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ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  northernwitch on 10/10/2009, 9:01 pm

Hoarding –Beyond an Animal Issue

By Lorraine Houston

To ‘hoard’ - to accumulate, amass, collect, hide, keep, save, scrimp, sock away, stockpile, treasure.

Depending on the individual, hoarding can encompass a wide variety of items from books, clothing, newspapers, cans of food, junk mail, pill bottles and rocks to old shopping lists, animals and everything in between.

From the NeuroBehavioral Institute “Hoarding is estimated to affect between 700,000 to 1.4 million people in the US. This may be an underestimate as many hoarders often do not seek help. It is more common for hoarders to be brought to treatment by a loved one. Hoarding is quite a common symptom among people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Anywhere from 25 to 30 % of people with OCD report hoarding symptoms. Compulsive hoarding does not discriminate. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status. Although hoarding is commonly thought to occur in the elderly, hoarding symptoms actually (on average) begin between age 11 or 12. As with many other conditions, hoarding, if left untreated, will become more severe over time. It is also important to consider that all hoarders are not the same, with hoarding symptoms varying from mild to severe”.

Let’s take a closer look into animal hoarding specifically and the purpose of this article. A research study was done from 1997-2006 by the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts University, to increase awareness about this complex disorder, which had, until recently, not received serious attention from medical, mental health or public health professionals. Known to animal protection groups and SPCAs for many years as "collectors", the depth of this issue is just beginning to be uncovered, and shows striking similarities to other forms of hoarding behaviour which are better understood.

According to Dr. Gary Patronek, founder of the study, animal hoarding is a serious mental health issue that involves an individual or individuals acquiring more animals than they can care for and can be defined by the following criteria:

More than the typical number of companion animals

* Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness, and death
* Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling

The research study narrowed the field to three “types” of animal hoarders:
Overwhelmed Caregiver Hoarder - more based in reality, become overwhelmed by the number of animals that they take in
Rescuer Hoarder - mission driven, they actively and compulsively acquire animals
Exploiter Hoarder - feel no empathy towards animals or humans, acquire animals to serve their own needs

Excerpts from www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/index
Hoarders justify their behaviour with the view that the animals are surrogate children and that no one else can care for them.

In a typical hoarding situation, the hoarder will put their own needs to be surrounded by animals ahead of providing even the most basic care. Although professing great love for the animals, they are often oblivious to serious illness, animals in desperate need of veterinary care, starvation, and even death of the animals.

Few if any animals are ever adopted or placed, and new animals are never turned away, even in the face of rapidly deteriorating conditions. There are often substantial efforts to acquire even more pets. Some hoarders acquire the animals passively because they are "known" as a shelter or Good Samaritan. Others can go to great lengths, often pursuing extremely clever subterfuge to infiltrate legitimate rescue groups, shelters, veterinary clinics, etc.

There have been cases where very well done internet sites advertising themselves as a "No-Kill" sanctuary taking special needs pets was a front for hoarding. Unfortunately, owners desperate to place an unwanted pet may not ask too many questions, even when the solution sounds too good to be true.

The stereotype of an animal hoarder is that of a single, older woman, living alone and socioeconomically disadvantaged. Like any stereotype, there is some support in existing data. However, it is important to recognize that animal hoarding knows no age, gender, or socioeconomic boundaries. It has been observed in men and women, young and old, married, as well as never married or widowed, and in people with professional jobs. Hoarders often manage to live a double life, deceiving friends and co-workers about the true conditions at home.

Almost every conceivable type of animal can be a victim of hoarding. Reports have documented cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, birds, guinea pigs, farm animals (horses, sheep, goats, chickens, cattle), and exotic and sometimes dangerous wildlife.

Domestic species are the largest group of animals represented in hoarding cases, most likely because of availability and relative ease of care. Cats are very common and contribute to the stereotype (e.g. “crazy cat lady”). They are readily available in any community and easier to conceal than dogs. This could explain the high frequency of cat hoarding compared to other species.

Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Ontario SPCA) Senior Inspector Connie Mallory writes:

“Animal hoarding occurs in communities across the province. A complex disorder, it affects both human and animal welfare, is responsible for substantial animal suffering and property damage, and is frequently misunderstood and under-recognized. Thousands of animals in Ontario are affected each year yet, due to the nature of animal hoarding, countless cases remain undetected and unreported. Animal hoarding should not be confused with legitimate efforts to assist animals, including animal sheltering, sanctuary and rescue. The difference between a person who keeps an unusually large number of pets and cares for them properly, and the animal hoarder, is that the hoarder is typically in denial about their inability to provide proper food, water, sanitation and veterinary care.”

Ontario SPCA Senior Inspector Mindy Hall, a 20 year veteran, oversees cruelty Investigators and Agents across the GTA. She says she’s seen an increase in hoarding and it is not uncommon to investigate at least a dozen cases a year in the Toronto area alone. Mindy says, “Although cats are the most common species hoarded, I have also seen cases involving dogs, rabbits and horses. Animals in these situations, especially cats, are typically feral. Living conditions within the homes are not suitable for animals or humans due to feces, urine, garbage and the overwhelming odour”. She adds, “In some cases owners also hoard other items which further clutter the home. In all cases in which I have been involved, medical conditions in the animals are left untreated, causing pain and/or suffering. In most cases, the owner denies there is anything wrong with the animals or says they can treat them themselves without a veterinarian, sometimes using inappropriate products or methods. In many instances no one is aware of the hoarding situation until a medical emergency arises or the death of the owner occurs.”

She offers the following tips on identifying a potential animal hoarder:
often a recluse who views the world as a hostile place for animals and people
suspicious of law enforcement and isolated from family members
- covered windows, overgrown vegetation, gates, fences, no trespassing signs
- household conditions often deteriorated to the point where appliances and utilities are not functioning and proper food preparation and basic sanitation measures become impossible
- may be rodent or insect infested, with dangerously high concentrations of ammonia odour coming from the house

She states that animal hoarding is much more than an animal issue. Dealing with animal hoarders requires collaboration and exchange of information between agencies and integrated community response – mental health services, animal protection services, public health, building inspectors, police services and veterinarians.

With the OSPCA act being revised and regulations added that include standards of care for animals, the society is now able to address these situations most effectively and efficiently. Where charges are laid under the act, the courts may now order the following:

If a person is convicted of an offence under clause (1) (b) or (c) contravenes subsection 11.2 (1) causing distress, (2) permitting distress (3) training, permitting animals to fight, (4) owning animal fighting equipment, structures (5) harming a law enforcement animal, the court making the conviction may, in addition to any other penalty, make any other order that the court considers appropriate, including an order that the convicted person undergo counseling or training.

Most offenders deny family and friends access to their home. Consequently, family and friends will unknowingly enable hoarders to continue by providing them with food or money. Family and community members can help hoarders get the assistance they need, while protecting animals, by notifying the Ontario SPCA or local police if they suspect someone is hoarding animals. In addition, anyone who is considering relinquishing an animal to an individual or private animal organization should visit the property first and ask to see how and where the animals are kept.
Lorraine Houston is a feature writer for Dogs, Dogs, Dogs! and the director of Speaking of Dogs, an organization devoted to education, outreach and rescue. She is an evaluator for Therapeutic Paws of Canada, an Ontario SPCA Cruelty Agent for the Etobicoke Humane Society and a Maxwell Award winner from Dog Writers Assoc. of America. Lorraine is an advocate for humane training, rescue/shelter dog adoptions and relationships built on kindness and respect. She and her family have fostered hundreds of dogs and found homes for thousands of others. Lorraine lives in Don Mills with her husband, two sons and family dogs.
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northernwitch
 
 

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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Pugsaunt on 10/10/2009, 9:30 pm

Wow. I guess I'm not surprised that animal hoarding is on the rise. So sad. Thanks for posting this, Blanche.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Not Afraid on 10/10/2009, 10:32 pm

Great information! I had a client who is a hoarder (I rescued my two bottle babies from her colony) and the description of a hoarder's house described her living situation. She has an incredibly beautiful 1/2 finished kitchen filled with the most amazing appliances, cabinetry and granite countertops but there was raw electrical wire hanging everywhere (for YEARS). Some other signs that made me realize she was a hoarder were the overwhelming smell of cat urine everywhere in the house (I couldn't come over without having to take a shower and do laundry afterwards) and she had the most amazing collection of hotel shampoo/conditioner bottles, soap, sewing kits, etc.

She strongly felt she was doing the "right" thing by feeding all of the cats that showed up at her house, but wouldn't trap, fix and release any of them, so she always had kittens everywhere. I can relate to "doing the right thing" as I've rescued (and care for) quite a few animals, but that means CARING for them. Now, if my house ever start smelling like urine, call the authorities.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Sara on 10/11/2009, 2:47 am

Just makes me so sad to read about this, the poor animals going through that :(
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Newsie96 on 10/12/2009, 9:43 am

There is a show, I forget what channel it's on, that follows hoarders and their attempted recovery. Many times the show focuses on animal hoarders. I think it's a disease and some people can't help it.

My aunt, who used to live in GA, was a hoarder. She raises beautiful champion Siamese and Persian cats. But then she started taking in ally cats and giving them homes on her porch. It just spiraled out of control and before we knew it, she had like 50 cats, of all kinds, in her home and she couldn't keep up their care. The authorities were called and she was forced out of her house and it was condemned. She had other issues, too, but the hoarding is what made her daughter really take notice.

She's ok now, having been to therapy and now lives with a guy that takes care of her, but we always fear it'll happen again. She has cats with her boyfriend, and just bought a pure bred. I only pray that her boyfriend doesn't enable her behavior so her history is repeated.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Maryjo on 10/12/2009, 11:08 am

Sam wrote: ....It just spiraled out of control and before we knew it, she had like 50 cats, of all kinds.....

I think that happens in a lot of cases where hoarding accurs. They feel they don't have any control over what has happened, so they slog on thru and try to do the best they can. (Instead of turning them in or getting help)

A person where I work thinks I am a hoarder since I have 4 dogs of my own. But I have 4 because (so far) that is what I can afford at the moment. Rocky, the fifth, is a foster so I don't pay his medical. And Linda's three live a luxurious life. If something untoward happens to my gang, I do hae Linda's help financially if I need it. (Knocking on lots of wood...)
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  northernwitch on 10/12/2009, 12:58 pm

I also watch the show on hoarders--it's fascinating to me and I've dealt with quite a few over the years who were clients.
It is a disease--a form of OCD in most cases. And it is hard to deal with--in large part because it's hard for others to see it as a mental illness. Family get aggravated and angry with hoarders and many hoarders end up homeless as they get evicted. It's one of the reasons you see so many homeless folks with grocery carts full of junk--they've just lost any place to keep their stuff.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Newsie96 on 10/12/2009, 1:10 pm

I have to admit that I am a bit of a pack rat. It drives Jeff a little crazy because his mother is a BIG TIME pack rat. Her basement is stuffed with stuff that's old enought to vote - some of which may be old enough to collect social security! I gave her a set of Irish napkins one St. Patty's day and she informed us that they were too pretty for us to wipe our mouths on. So they are stuffed in her hutch. I want to offer to make a quilt of something with them - what's the use of stowing them away? (And incidentally, I found them at TJ Maxx!)
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Guest on 10/12/2009, 1:25 pm

My mom is a bit of a hoarder, not nearly as bad as some of the people on the show but non the less she has her closets, basement and garage stuffed with basically junk. It's impossible to ask her to let it go.
I am the complete opposite, can't stand having to much stuff, it clogs my brain!

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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  northernwitch on 10/12/2009, 2:07 pm

Donna wrote:My mom is a bit of a hoarder, not nearly as bad as some of the people on the show but non the less she has her closets, basement and garage stuffed with basically junk. It's impossible to ask her to let it go.
I am the complete opposite, can't stand having to much stuff, it clogs my brain!
I'm the same way--I throw stuff out with great abandon and have at times, regretted it. My DH is a pack rat--but not a hoarder--and it makes me nuts. I told him his home office is inviolate--I won't touch his stuff in there, but once it encroaches upon general living space, then we have to negotiate.
And with hoarders, it's not about the stuff, it's about the reason for needing it.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  smoochieface on 10/12/2009, 2:23 pm

northernwitch wrote:
Donna wrote:My mom is a bit of a hoarder, not nearly as bad as some of the people on the show but non the less she has her closets, basement and garage stuffed with basically junk. It's impossible to ask her to let it go.
I am the complete opposite, can't stand having to much stuff, it clogs my brain!
I'm the same way--I throw stuff out with great abandon and have at times, regretted it. My DH is a pack rat--but not a hoarder--and it makes me nuts. I told him his home office is inviolate--I won't touch his stuff in there, but once it encroaches upon general living space, then we have to negotiate.
And with hoarders, it's not about the stuff, it's about the reason for needing it.

Add another one to your club! My mom kept freaking everything, every receipt, everything. Cleaning out the house before we sold it was a nightmare. I basically rented a 40 x 40 dumpster, had them park it in front of the house for a week, and told my brother to dump everything except the paperwork and stuff he wanted to keep. He said they filled up the entire dumpster.

So I am the opposite, too. I throw everything away that I can get my hands on and also sometimes end up regretting it, especially when I need it to do taxes at the end of the year. Karl and I battle all the time because he tells me that he's not "done" with something yet and will let it sit there a month and it drives me crazy. Then I go into passive aggressive mode and give him 24 hours notice before I start dumping things with abandon.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Guest on 10/12/2009, 2:28 pm

Blanche, I'm married to the same person. A friend came over the other day and I was giving her a scarf from my closet she was amazed how tidy things were, color coordinated etc. I then showed her my husbands closet, complete chaos!
How can two people who have completely different living styles live together?
I have regretted throwing away a few things but all in all I have to purge at least 2-33 x's a year.
With my mothers hoarding, she thinks she will create something out of it or if she doesn't someone else will.
At my garage sale she gave me two huge bags of shoulder pads, and one huge bag (I'm talking large garbage bags) of scrap fabric, like 1" x1" etc. She kept every shoulder pad she ever took out of a shirt of jacket and every scrap piece of fabric from sewing and saved them because someday she might use them.
She retired form the store about 8yrs ago, her boxes that she packed up are still to this day on the floor in her garage. She gets me batty!

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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  destanie101 on 10/21/2009, 11:56 am

i'm a sentimental pack-rat. LOL.

Cameron thinks I'm bat-shit crazy, but most of it isn't stuff that i've kept, its the things my mother kept in boxes over the years. I have boxes of stuffed animals (that would break my heart to throw out) and then she kept BOXES of old school stuff, a few of my "favorite" shirts as a little kid, those t-shirts you randomly get places (i'm getting a quilt made of all those though). and then the boxes of randomness that I can't seem to let go of. however, about once a year or so, I drag out everything and Purge a few garbage bags full of crap.

Its all going in storage this weekend though, and its all organized, not strewn all over the place.

Cameron won't keep anything, but his mother does. she has an attic FULL of all kinds of treasures!!
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  TNPUGMOMOF3 on 10/21/2009, 1:25 pm

I have moved a lot recently, so if it wasn't used since the last move it is GONE!!! I love purging crap. Mom was an anal retentive neat freak and I an the same way with clutter. I am not a clean freak, neat yes, not likely to be clean. That is why I have a cleaning lady once a month to do the big stuff!!!
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Maryjo on 10/21/2009, 1:38 pm

Destanie wrote: I have boxes of stuffed animals (that would break my heart to throw out)

I suggest thinking it as recycling. If you give the stuffed animals to a thrift store, some OTHER child will get a chance to love and play with it. That advice is something I read somewhere about ways to de-clutter.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Maryjo on 10/21/2009, 1:39 pm

TNPUGMOMOF3 wrote:I have moved a lot recently, so if it wasn't used since the last move it is GONE!!! I love purging crap. Mom was an anal retentive neat freak and I an the same way with clutter. I am not a clean freak, neat yes, not likely to be clean. That is why I have a cleaning lady once a month to do the big stuff!!!

Linda purged 90% of her stuff before moving up here. She said it was very freeing.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  leslyeb on 10/22/2009, 8:33 pm

I don't keep a lot of stuff. I only have two things that belonged to my mother after she passed away. These two items are extremely sentimental to me, but the other stuff was just her stuff and didn't mean anything to me. I even threw away all my school year books. We have moved a lot, and each time I have finally gotten Tim to throw away some things.
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ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  Guest on 11/4/2009, 8:49 pm

All this discussion about hoarding in general brings to mind a useful website called "freecycle" that operates in many cities. You can join the list (I would recommend the "web only" option when you register), and list anything you would like to give away. If another list member wants it, you can arrange for them to pick it up at a location convenient to you (usually your home--driveway, front yard, or porch, but you could ask to meet at the local library or whatever if you prefer). For me this is easier (less guilt-inducing) than thowing something away.

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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  akc0104 on 11/5/2009, 7:33 am

I love Freecycle! Even things I think of as crap usually have someone who wants them, nothing is too big or too small. Even broken things find a home. I just arrange for the person to pick it up near my curb, it doesn't get easier than that.

Now my mom isn't a hoarder, but more of a big time shopper. She'll have 5-10 large laundry detergents lined up in her closet - uh there's only 1 person in her house. She's like that with pretty much everything. I have a tiny home and just can't stockpile everything and she doesn't understand that and buys for me too. sigh.
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Re: ANIMAL HOARDING

Post  akc0104 on 11/5/2009, 7:35 am

I love Freecycle! Even things I think of as crap usually have someone who wants them, nothing is too big or too small. Even broken things find a home. I just arrange for the person to pick it up near my curb, it doesn't get easier than that.

Now my mom isn't a hoarder, but more of a big time shopper. She'll have 5-10 large laundry detergents lined up in her closet - uh there's only 1 person in her house. She's like that with pretty much everything. I have a tiny home and just can't stockpile everything and she doesn't understand that and buys for me too. sigh.
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