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WHAT IS ANIMAL HOARDING?

Posted Feb 17 2013 12:00am
 
 


Warmer weather has been slowly creeping back into the mountains of northern Arizona, easing up somewhat on the sub-zero nights and days that don't go above 15-20 degrees.  However, we'll still have at least a few big snowstorms before winter breathes her final sigh.  February and March are historically the months that bring the most snow accumulations to us...but, there is still a sense of spring on the horizon.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye finally got several days off from our renovation this past week and were able to do some things just for fun.  Our contractor has finished the first phase of the project and is now awaiting the cabinetry and countertops before finishing the job.  A couple of trips to the Phoenix area, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon await us over the next two weeks on days when no work is being done.  Desperado has been very eager to get out and stretch her legs on some trails....

EOB-11....

For those of you who own more than one dog or cat, where would you draw the line at having too many pets?  Four dogs/cats, six, eight...how many?  The problem with that question is that there are so many variables involved in formulating an answer.  As with children, some families are better able to properly take care of more animals than another family might be.  Finances enter into the equation, as do the amount of space available and the quantity of time the pet owner can devote to the care of those pets.  Another consideration is whether or not there are any local ordinances governing the number of pets allowed on one property.  I think we all can agree that there is a reasonable limit to the number of pets anyone can caringly and sanely provide for.



How Many Dogs Are Too Many? By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman Adding a dog to an existing household of dogs can sometimes be tricky. It requires trial meetings on neutral territory to establish the dogs' tolerance of each other before throwing the unsuspecting pair together permanently. Where even greater numbers of dogs are involved, pack dynamics must be considered. Naturally, the dogs' temperaments must be considered, but age and seniority – basically who was there first – are also important factors. In fact, the best way to start out may be to favor the original resident over the newcomer, and the elder dog over the younger dog. This "senior support program" may have to be reversed to a "junior support program" if after four to six weeks hostilities persist or are escalating. When several dogs share the same close quarters with each other, there is often some occasional inter-dog aggravation. This may sound worse than it is, with much growling and posturing over some issue important to the dogs. This is normal dog behavior that is best ignored. Let dogs be dogs – unless there are serious biting incidents (not just a nicked ear) or biting lower than the neck (e.g. on the abdomen). In this case, you will have to work hard to establish the true leader and support that dog's position over the usurper. It is probably true that as the number of dogs in a household increases the incidence of behavior problems also increases. Let's face it, the larger the pack the more complicated the social dynamics and the more diluted the owner's attention. But how large a pack is too large? If one dog is fine, two's company, and a small group of four to six dogs (natural pack size) is manageable with care and knowledge, what about 25 dogs? The Envelope, Please Having more than six to eight dogs as pets does seem excessive, unless you are a breeder or are involved in some canine enterprise that requires you to own many dogs, like foxhounds that you use for hunting. Owning large numbers of dogs means that individual dogs do not receive the same level of attention they would if they were part of a smaller unit. The relationship of human and dog changes, becoming less personal, and the dogs themselves become less pet-like and more pack-like. While there is nothing wrong with this altered dynamic, it is in a direction away from what is normally understood as pet ownership. In general, this is a move away from close human-companion animal bonds, and indicates a more perfunctory type of relationship. Some folks take the acquisition and mass ownership of dogs a stage further in the name of humanity. They often surround themselves with scores of dogs that live in cages like battery hens and/or run rampant around the home, soiling the place and creating an unhealthful existence for both human and dog. In extreme cases, dogs in these situations are not fed or cared for properly and end up emaciated and sick. People who foster such situations, known as animal collectors or hoarders, may be psychologically unwell and don't appreciate the inhumanity of what they are doing. They may even have a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and should seek help – though they usually don't. One thing is for sure, how many dogs you can humanely care for depends on your availability, energy and resources. For most people, owning one or two dogs is a full time job, but some may be able to balance upward of four to six dogs. Anything above this number requires a special kind of person with special circumstances if each animal is to receive the kind of attention he should receive as a pet. Adapted from: http://www.petplace.com/dogs/how-many-are-too-many/page1.aspx


How Many Dogs are Enough "Tip" By: Dr. Debra Primovic A common question we get is how many dogs are too many? The answer is not a simple one and really depends on how much time and space you have as well as the personality of the individual dogs. Some dogs are more gregarious than others and some dogs really are happiest when they are the only dog in the house. Adapted from:  http://www.petplace.com/dogs/how-many-dogs-are-enough-tip/page1.aspx?utm_source=dogcrazynews001et&utm_medium=email&utm_content=petplace_article&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter


Animal Hoarding In recent years, several television shows and news specials have documented the lives of Americans that have practically buried themselves in their own belongings. This behavior, known as hoarding, is often typified by compulsive accumulation and storage of books, clothes, or other nonessential items. For some of these individuals, hoarding goes beyond keepsakes and overflows into the realm of pets. With about 1,500 new cases like this arising each year, there’s no arguing that animal hoarding is a growing problem.

Adapted from: http://www.avmamedia.org/display.asp?sid=429&tid=207&NAME=Animal_Hoarding


What is animal hoarding? According to the Hoarding Animals Research Consortium, the following criteria are used to define animal hoarding: 1)More than the typical number of companion animals 2)Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death  3)Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and the human occupants of the home. Nearly 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year. This abuse differs from other types of animal cruelty in that the perpetrators don't always accept or recognize the cruelty they inflict on their animals. Rather, animal hoarders usually ardently believe they are saving or rescuing the animals they imprison. How does it cause animal suffering? Animals kept in hoarding conditions often suffer extreme neglect, including lack of food, proper veterinary care and sanitary conditions. Officers investigating hoarding situations often find floors, furniture and counters covered with animal feces and urine. In extreme cases, decaying animal carcasses are found among the living animals. Insect and rodent infestations are also common.

  Are there other concerns? Aside from obvious animal suffering, animal hoarding presents health hazards for the human occupants of the home. Child and adult protective services can be called to intervene when the hoarder's neglect extends beyond the animals. Filthy conditions under which animal hoarders live also attract disease vectors such as insects and rodents. This can also threaten neighboring households. Often a house that is home to a hoarding situation must be condemned by the health department due to unlivable conditions. Finally, animal hoarding places a tremendous strain on already-overburdened animal shelters, which lack the space or resources to deal with an influx of hundreds of animals, many of whom are usually in dire need of medical attention. Holding these animals pending the outcome of a court case may displace otherwise adoptable animals and lead to their euthanasia. Treatment options Although what causes animal hoarding is still poorly understood, there is a general consensus that animal hoarding is a symptom of psychological and neurological malfunctioning, which might involve dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Treatment is difficult and has a low rate of success. Typically a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and some type of psychopharmacological intervention is recommended. Removing animals from the hoarding situation can temporarily help solve the problem, but without long-term psychological intervention, animal hoarding has a nearly 100 percent recidivism rate. It is recommended that animal control, social service agencies, and health and housing agencies work together to treat each animal hoarding situation as a long-term project. Intervention also should involve the family of the hoarder, and any other involved members of the community. Charging options The animal cruelty laws of all states have provisions stipulating minimal care standards (e.g., food, shelter, veterinary care, and sanitary conditions) for animals. Legislation has been enacted in a few states specifically addressing animal hoarding. In situations where the animal hoarder is unwilling to accept help and the animals' conditions do not warrant animal cruelty charges, non-animal agencies often step in to force change. For example, fire departments can cite hoarders for fire code violations, health departments can intervene where there are disease issues and housing code violations, and county zoning boards can step in to force change if there are local ordinances regarding the number of animals a person may keep. The charges may be necessary to help the hoarder understand the gravity of their situation. Sentencing options The HSUS recommends that convicted animal hoarders be sentenced to mandatory psychological evaluation and treatment and that they be restricted to owning a small number of animals; two is a reasonable number. A lengthy probation period, during which the hoarder must agree to periodic unannounced visits from animal control to ensure compliance, is vital. In cases where animal suffering is extreme (and depending on the mental and psychological capacity of the hoarder), we favor jail time, both as a punitive measure and to help hoarders understand the serious nature of their actions. Adapted from:  http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/abuse_neglect/facts/hoarding.html   More Details on Animal Hoarding Animal hoarding is a complex and intricate public health and community issue. Its effects are far-reaching and encompass mental health, animal welfare and public safety concerns. Why Do People Hoard Animals? It is not clearly understood why people become animal hoarders. Early research pointed toward a variant of obsessive-compulsive disorders, but new studies and theories are leading toward attachment disorders in conjunction with personality disorders, paranoia, delusional thinking, depression and other mental illnesses. Some animal hoarders began collecting after a traumatic event or loss, while others see themselves as “rescuers” who save animals from lives on the street. “Historically, a person who collected animals was viewed as an animal lover who got in over his or her head, but the truth is that people who hoard are experiencing a total loss of insight,” says Dr. Randall Lockwood, ASPCA Senior Vice President, Forensic Sciences and Anti-cruelty Projects. “They have no real perception of the harm they're doing to the animals." In the majority of cases, animal hoarders appear intelligent and clearly believe they are helping their animals. They often claim that any home is better than letting that animal die. In addition, many hoarders possess the ability to garner sympathy and to deceive others into thinking their situation is under control. They often are blind to the fact that they are not caring for the animals and to the extreme suffering they are inflicting.

According to Dr. Lockwood, "Being kept by a hoarder is a slow kind of death for the animal. Actually, it can be a fate worse than death." How Can I Tell if Someone Is a Hoarder? It's not always easy. Animal hoarders range in age, and can be men or women of any race or ethnic group. Elderly people tend to be more at risk due to their own deteriorating health and isolation from community and social groups. One commonality between all hoarders is a failure to grasp the severity of their situation. “I have worked with many animal hoarders in their homes. Their mental illness allows them to maintain an absolute denial of the filth and the suffering of the animals,” says Dr. Stephanie LaFarge, ASPCA Senior Director of Counseling Services. “They simply cannot see or smell or react to the situation as a normal person would." Here are several signs that may indicate someone is an animal hoarder: •They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care. •Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter). •There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc. •Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized. •Fleas and vermin are present. •Individual is isolated from community and appears to be in neglect themselves. •Individual insists all animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness. Do Hoarders Often Pose as Rescue Groups or Sanctuaries? Absolutely. Research shows many hoarders are beginning to set themselves up as “rescue shelters,” complete with 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status. They may appear to be sensible people, persuasively conveying their love for animals and readiness to take those who are sick and with special needs. Furthermore, the Internet appears to be becoming a great tool for solicitation. “When looking to place an animal, it is easy for a person to get seduced by a pretty website,” points out Lockwood. “We need to caution people to look behind the curtain before giving over an animal.” Here are several signs that a rescue group or shelter may involve a hoarder: •The group is unwilling to let visitors see the location where animals are kept. •The group will not disclose the number of animals in its care. •Little effort is made to adopt animals out. •More animals are continually taken in, despite the poor condition of existing animals. •Legitimate shelters and rescue organizations are viewed as the enemy. •Animals may be received at a remote location (parking lot, street corner, etc.) rather than at the group's facilities. I Have Many Animals—Could I Be a Hoarder?

It's important to note that not everyone who has multiple animals is an animal hoarder. A person may have a dozen animals, and all are spayed and neutered and provided with regular veterinary care and a sanitary environment. This person would not be an animal hoarder. Even rescuers who occasionally become overwhelmed are not considered hoarders if they are actively trying to modify the situation. That said, if you think you might have too many animals to care for properly, please contact your local shelter or a veterinarian for help. How Prevalent Is Animal Hoarding? It has been estimated that there are 900 to 2,000 new cases of animal hoarding every year in the United States, with a quarter million animals falling victim. Animals collected range from cats and dogs to reptiles, rodents, birds, exotics and even farm animals. Should Hoarders Be Prosecuted? In most cases, criminal prosecution of animal hoarding can be a difficult process and may not be the most effective route. Such cases are difficult to successfully prosecute and, once litigation ends, the hoarder is likely to resume collecting an excessive number of animals unless closely monitored. “Hoarders are like drug addicts—you can't cure them, you can only prevent relapses,” says Lockwood. Some say prosecution isn't the answer because hoarders are often emotionally troubled rather than criminally inclined. “Like many psychological conditions, the causes of animal hoarding are probably multiple and, therefore, assessment of emotions, behavior and thoughts must be multifaceted to point the way toward successful treatment,” says the ASPCA's Dr. LaFarge. In some cases judges can impose conditions that actually help the hoarder. They can require counseling, for instance, or prohibit the person from having animals. What is clear is that prosecution alone rarely alters the behavior. “It is essential that key community agencies work together to prevent animal hoarders from harming the large number of animals they gain control over,” says LaFarge. “Social service agencies must collaborate with animal shelters and law enforcement to intervene to save the animals and then follow up with years of monitoring to prevent a recurrence. The general public needs to be educated to realize that the hoarder is not just a nice little old lady who 'loves too much.'” Are There Laws Against Animal Hoarding? Animal hoarding is covered implicitly under every state's animal cruelty statute, which typically requires caretakers to provide sufficient food and water, veterinary care and a sanitary environment. Only two states, Illinois and Hawaii, currently have statutory language specifically addressing animal hoarding. With guidance from ASPCA, the Illinois Companion Animal Hoarder Act was created in 2001 to create a legal definition for “companion animal hoarder” and mandate counseling for those convicted of animal cruelty who meet the definition. Animal hoarding itself is not prohibited by the statute. Hawaii's 2008 law is the only state law specifically outlawing animal hoarding. It does not mandate psychological counseling for convicted hoarders or restrict future animal ownership. Anti-hoarding legislation has been proposed, but not passed, in several other states. How Can I Help? If you think someone you know is struggling with animal hoarding, here are some ways you can help: •Pick up the phone and call your local humane law enforcement department, police department, animal shelter, animal welfare group or veterinarian to initiate the process. You may not want to get the person “in trouble,” but a phone call may be the first step to get them and the animals the help they need. “Often people don't report hoarding situations because they are worried the hoarder will get in trouble or that the animals will get taken away,” says the ASPCA's Allison Cardona, Director of Disaster Response. “What I would like to stress is that these situations only get worse with time, and the animals always end up getting taken out of the home. It is always better to say something—this is the first step for both the animals and the people to get the help they need.”  •Educate others about the misery involved in a hoarding situation. Animal hoarding has often been portrayed as an eccentricity—the elderly “cat lady.” The public needs to be made aware of the greater harm caused by animal hoarding. •Contact social service groups and ask them to get involved. Animal hoarding is not just about the animals. Your local department of the aging, adult protective services, health departments and other mental health agencies may be able to provide services or links to services. It's important to get the animal hoarder connected to the right services. •Reassure the animal hoarder that it's okay to accept help. Animal hoarders are usually worried that their animals will be killed or that they will never see them again. Regardless of the outcome, assure them that the animals need urgent care and that immediate action is necessary. •Volunteer your time. With the removal of so many animals from a hoarding situation, the burden on local shelters can be staggering. Volunteer your time to help clean cages, socialize animals, walk dogs and perform other such necessary duties. •Keep in touch. In many cases the animals are too unsocialized or too old and sick to be considered adoptable. However, it may be appropriate for the animals to be spayed and neutered and returned to the home if the animal hoarder can provide—or can be aided in providing—care. Under the guidance of an organization, help the individual with daily animal care chores. And if the individual acquires new animals, help ensure that they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated. •Support local legislation. Laws that recognize hoarding as unlawful with appropriate punishment and mandatory treatment are necessary. Even though hoarding cases exhibit typical characteristics of animal abuse, they are rarely prosecuted because they fail to show the individual's intent to harm. Adapted from:  http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/animal-hoarding/animal-hoarding-faq#laws ~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~
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