Companions to Prisoners: Animal Hoarding
Most people grow up understanding the significance of having a furry, loving companion to play with when you and your siblings weren’t getting along. Your childhood pet probably provided recollections that can’t be replaced. These fond memories often pour into adult lives as we choose new pets to replace the ones we’ve lost. You may find yourself making a home for numerous animals so that each person in your home can have their very own pet. If this doesn’t describe you, you can probably imagine a friend’s home you visit where you are met with three excited dogs while a couple cats sit on the back of the couch.
While some people have more pets than others would prefer, this is not completely abnormal. However, this can become an issue for the owner, as well as the pets, when there are more animals than the owner can properly care for. Animal hoarding is a real, and all too common, problem that may occur gradually. It may begin with the saving of a few strays. The next thing you know there are 10-15 dogs ruining a home with destruction, feces, urine, and the owner finds themselves unable to physically or financially care for them.
How to Tell is Someone is a Hoarder?
People who hoard animals clearly believe they are helping these animals by saving them from a bad situation where they were unloved. They typically take in strays, though sometimes purchase the animals, adopted them or even steal them from other people’s yards. Animals collected may range in species from cats and dogs to reptiles, rodents, birds and even farm animals.
These individuals often give all of their affection to their animals. In doing so, they are shutting out the humans in their lives. This leads to their social isolation, followed by the need to acquire more animals, and the endless downward spiral is formed. Characteristics of a person who is hoarding animals may include:
· Having numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
· Often blind to the fact that their animals are suffering
· Deny their inability to care for the animals
· Isolates themselves from the community and appears to neglect their own health
Even though an animal hoarder may appear to love their “pets”, once the situation gets out of control, the home dwelling becomes a bio-hazard. Lack of sanitation endangers the health of the animals and their caretakers. Some physical signs of animal hoarding may include the following situations:
· Pets become injured, diseased, malnourished and un-socialized, which leads to fights with each other and their owners
· Their home is deteriorated (dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter and filth)
· There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine and vomit
· Animals are scrawny, sluggish and not well socialized
· Fleas and vermin are present
Each year, over 250,000 animals are victims of hoarders. Animal hoarders range in age, and can be men or women of any race or ethnic group. They often have an unusually high tolerance for poor hygiene and a mistaken sense of their caretaking abilities. Elderly people may be more at risk, due to their own deteriorating health and isolation from the community.
What Causes Animal Hoarding?
While animal hoarding is usually a sign of an untreated mental health disorder a specific root cause remains a mystery. Experts suggest that experiences during a person’s childhood could be a main cause. Perhaps there was an absent, abusive or inconsistent relationship with the primary caregiver. This can lead to a difficulty in forming connections with other people. Animals, in turn, wind up becoming a substitute for human companionship.
When someone hoards inanimate objects, mental health professionals tell us that this is a type of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder. The person may obsess over the thought of something terrible happening as soon as they get rid of a certain object. They will preserve the object to reduce that stress and the obsessive thoughts may fade away. But the motivation to hoard animals may arise for different reasons.
These reasons often include an uncontrollable urge to “rescue” animals or caring for animals that no one else wants. This may stem from childhood neglect. The person usually starts out as a typical pet owner. As they care for their pets, and receive unconditional love from these animals they begin taking in a few more animals at a time. Before they know it, the home is filled with 30 or 40 animals. These people often have good intentions, but it eventually gets out of hand.
Some research suggests that collecting animals points toward attachment disorders and depression or other mental illnesses. Some animal hoarders began collecting after a traumatic event or loss. Other research suggests that animal hoarding can be related to addictive behavior.
What Kind of Help Is Available?
Animal hoarding has consequences for the person who is hoarding, their family, their neighborhood, and the welfare of the animals as well. The hoarder will argue strongly about how much they love the animals, but in most cases the animals are actually suffering.
Because of the mental disconnect these individuals may have from reality, it is important for friends and family to approach the situation delicately. Try to express your genuine concern for the person’s health and safety. As draining as the situation may be, try not to yell at the person who is hoarding. Your anger will only cause them to become more stubborn in their position. Remember, the person is blind to the real condition of their animals. Sometimes it can help to take photos and show them to the owner after you get them to a different location from their home. This may allow them to see the reality of the situation.
Hoarded animals are usually injured, diseased, malnourished and un-socialized. You can contact your local animal control department if you suspect an animal hoarder in your community but also reach out to social service groups like a department of aging, a health department or a mental health agency.
The Hoarding Cleanup
Cleaning out an animal hoarder’s home is overwhelming and even dangerous. It’s best to hire professional help for a hoarding cleanup. Bio-One is a team of trusted Tucson hoarding cleanup specialists. Our compassionate, professional team has helped many people reclaim their homes from this condition.
Rather than showing up with shovels to empty out the home, we work closely with the homeowner and the family from start to finish. The Bio-One team is committed to making our clients feel safe and comfortable throughout the process.
You trust your loved one’s treatment to the mental professionals, so trust the hoarding cleanup to the experienced professionals as well.
Contact Bio-One today at 520-771-5960 or www.BioOneTucson.com for more information about our comprehensive cleanup services and to schedule a no-obligation consultation and accurate cost estimate.