Animal hoarding is a real problem that deserves attention. 250,000 animal hoarders are uncovered each year. Of those, if left unchecked, they will repeat the behavior the first chance they get. The problem is a growing concern, not only for the animals who suffer and the impact it has on the city, but also on the person hoarding them since they likely suffer from a psychiatric disorder.
A recent European study was the first of its kind to offer data on the subject of animal hoarding. Researchers from Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) published the study in the journal Animal Welfare.
In the study, researchers gave questionnaires to experts that were involved with animal hoarding cases between 2002 and 2011. The goal was to see what the was done to intervene in animal hoarding cases and what help, if any, was offered to the said hoarders.
There are currently no protocols in place to help the individual accused of hoarding animals. Without recognizing that these people suffer from a psychiatric disorder and getting the person help to understand that they were actually harming, not helping, the animals in their “care,” they are likely to obtain more animals and revert to animal hoarding again in the future.
In fact, what usually happens when a case of animal hoarding is reported is a focus on removing, treating and re-homing the animals. While this may be the top priority in the moment, extended care is needed to prevent the hoarder from repeating the cycle and potentially harming more animals. Stopping the cycle requires some sort of intervention and cognitive behavioral therapy. Without intervention, they return to hoarding 100 percent of the time.
The disease causes people to feel compelled to hoard animals. People with this psychiatric disorder general exhibit similar symptoms, such as a strong need for control, being disorganized, feeling sentimental about things and pets, the inability to let things go and having a hard time making decisions.
Hoarders generally think they are doing a good service and what starts out with good intentions of taking care of a few stray animals that would otherwise not have a home. With a growing number of pets, however, the amount of time, money and care it takes to keep them healthy quickly becomes overwhelming. This often leads to a disastrous situation in which the animals are not properly cared for, live in a home filled with pet urine and feces, become infected and sometimes die.
Animal hoarding is difficult to control because family and friends do not know how to intervene and authorities cannot get involved until the situation becomes severe and they have a reason to obtain a warrant to search the home.
The study highlights the fact that animal hoarding is a growing problem is Europe, as it has been throughout Canada and the U.S. The researchers suggest a multidisciplinary approach to treating such cases, including mental health, animal welfare and public health. All areas need attention and that goes beyond salvaging the affected animals. The hoarder also needs help with the psychiatric disorder.
By Tracy Rose