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Monday, November 03, 2014

My Neighbor has Hundreds of Cats in her House!

What to Do if You Suspect Animal Hoarding

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Wednesday, 29 October 2014 09:29 by Dr. Jane
 Dr Jane Bicks  Dr. Jane Bicks  
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Animal hoarding is not just a complicated psychological disorder, it’s a public health danger. Most recently popularized by Animal Planet’s ‘Confessions’, animal hoarding is a growing problem in the U.S. Current estimates put the number of animals trapped every year in hoarding situations at 250,000. Experts believe that many more remain unreported, and thus uncounted. Dogs and cats aren’t the only species ‘collected’ … reptiles, rabbits, birds, rodents, even farm animals may be accumulated by hoarders.
Generally speaking, animal hoarding has two common elements: one, a household with more than the typical number of companion animals and, two, an inability to provide minimal standards of nutrition, shelter, veterinary care and basic sanitation. Sadly, a third aspect can prove even more deadly, with extreme neglect which can result in untreated disease and starvation. Regardless of how bad the situation becomes, hoarders seem unwilling to admit their inability to provide for their animals. In most cases, they remain blind to the horrific conditions of their own creation.

A Sweet Grandmother's 130 Cats | Confessions: Animal Hoarding

So, what causes a pet parent to become an animal hoarder? New research suggests attachment syndromes are to blame, often in conjunction with other mental disorders … most commonly obsessive compulsive personalities, but also with paranoia, delusional thinking and dementia. Some begin hoarding in the wake of a traumatic event, such as the loss of a close family member. Many view themselves as full-time rescuers, believing that they’re saving animals from pain and hardship. Typically, they have no awareness that they are actually hurting their animals.
Here are some of the warning signs that someone might have a problem with animal hoarding …
• An excessive number of animals in the home and yard. Persons may not even be able to tell you the total number of creatures under their care.
• Home in an obvious state of disrepair (e.g., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter, etc.).
• Property emanates a strong odor of ammonia. A peek through window reveals floors covered in dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.
• Animals are emaciated, lethargic and poorly socialized.
• Presence of fleas, flies and vermin.
• Individual appears isolated from neighbors and family, exhibits signs of personal neglect.
• Individual insists all animals are happy and healthy, despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Some hoarders go to excessive lengths to hide their secret, going so far as to pose as a legitimate rescue group or animal sanctuary, complete with an approved non-profit tax status. They create elaborate websites, disguising the true circumstances in their homes. To determine whether or not a hoarder is masquerading as a rescue group, here are some things to watch out for …
• Unwillingness to allow visitors or see where the animals live.
• Refusal to disclose the number of animals in its care.
• Additional animals are always welcome, even if many of the current pets are suffering from illnesses or injury.
• Little to no evidence of successful adoptions.
• Animal surrenders generally accepted off-premises, with requests to meet in parking lots, street corners, etc.
Just Some of Barbara Erickson's 522 Dogs - in her house!
If someone you know is an animal hoarder, there are some ways that you can help …
Pick up the phone and call your local animal welfare enforcement agency, police department, animal shelter or veterinarian. They can help to initiate the healing process. You may not want to be the person who gets anyone “in trouble,” but just know that a simple phone call could be the vital first step towards recovery for all involved.
Reassure the animal hoarder that it's okay to accept help. Remind them that everyone gets overwhelmed at some point in their lives. It’s not uncommon for animal hoarders to obsessively worry about their animals. Once they fully comprehend that their animals need urgent medical care, most are willing to take immediate action.
Seek the assistance of social service groups. Animal hoarding is not just about the animals. Agencies specializing in aging populations, adult protective services, health departments and other mental health groups will know best how to get hoarders the help they need.
Volunteer. After hoarding situations are uncovered, the removal of so many animals can be a staggering burden on local shelters. Volunteer your time and/or financial support … whatever you can do to help during the transition phase.
Educate others about the harm a hoarding situation can cause. Animal hoarding has often been portrayed as a harmless eccentricity — for example, the “crazy cat lady”. Members of your community need to be aware of the negative impacts. Who knows … perhaps they’ll be inspired to help other overwhelmed animal caregivers, too!
Thank you for all you do to make the world a better place for companion animals.

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Book Cover
Book Release: Inside Animal Hoarding: The Case of Barbara Erickson and Her 552 Dogs available now on Purdue University Press released this new book which profiles one of the largest and most intriguing cases of animal hoarding in recent history. Dr. Arluke's discussion follows the Erickson story with current research on animal hoarding and how it ties into the Erickson case. This integration of investigative journalism and scholarship offers a fresh approach with appeal to a broad audience of readers, those new to learning about the phenomenon, and those with first-hand experience in the animal welfare field.

Frequently Bought Together

Inside Animal Hoarding: The Story of Barbara Erickson and her 522 Dogs (New Directions in the Human-Animal Bond)+The Hoarding Handbook: A Guide for Human Service Professionals
Price for both: $61.20

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By Wave Tossed on November 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've seen accounts in Animal Planet's "Animal Cops" TV programs that show animals rescued from hoarders. What one sees is horrific: cats, dogs, birds, other animals kept in mind-boggling conditions: Animals being starved in filthy conditions with chronic disease that never get treated, animals that never get to experience the comfort and joy of loving human hands, animals forced to fend for themselves, sometimes resorting to canibalism. These shows -- and statistics -- report that most animals (particularly cats) rescued from hoarders have to be euthanized because of extreme poor health and/or lack of socialization.

I recently adopted a Siamese cat who had been rescued from a hoarding situation. He reportedly arrived at the shelter covered with fleas and external parasites; he was frightened and shaking. With the tender loving care of people from the Siamese Cat Rescue Center, the fleas are gone; he is healthy and took the first steps in learning to trust and love human beings. Now in his forever home with me, he has blossomed into a cuddling purr-baby. He is very friendly with my one other cat. He was one of the fortunate victims of hoarding; he didn't have to be euthanized.

I acquired this book; I wanted to find out the mind-set of a person who would claim to "love" her "babies" and yet keep them in conditions that resemble a torture-camp for animals. The book is in two parts, one a novella-like account of a particular hoarder, Barbara Erickson; the other part a generalized study of the phenomenon of animal hoarding. This book chilled me to the bone.

Barbara Erickson hoarded dogs. She kept more than 500 dogs in a small house: crowded, filthy, underfed, unsocialized, ungroomed, rarely taken to a vet; when rescuers finally arrived, half-eaten puppies were found.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Idaho Cat Lady on October 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the President of 2nd Chance Animal Shelter, the organization that handled the rescue of the Barbara Erickson dogs, I was involved in this rescue from beginning to end. After her many interviews with the participants in this rescue, including Barbara Erickson, Ms. Killeen has done an admirable job of showing the huge dichotomy between what the rescuers saw and experienced and what Barbara Erickson saw and experienced. Barbara Erickson truly believed that those dogs were her "babies" and she was giving them wonderful care, and the tragic result shows us that this is a mental illness for sure.

I also enjoyed the perspective that Dr. Arluke brought to the book, allowing us to better understand the psychology of this illness.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a better understanding of this devastating condition - devastating to the animals, devastating to the rescuers, and also devastating to the person with the condition known as "hoarding".
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Linda A. Devaney on May 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am fascinated with the concept of hoarding in general and as it pertains to animals in particular. It's difficult to get your mind around the idea that the hoarder can't actually "see" what they are doing. This book is very helpful in coming to terms with that concept. It also helps to understand that our societal attitude toward animal hoarding is irresponsible at best and enabling at worst. I found this little window into the world of Barbara Erickson to be interesting and well presented.

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