Last week, the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team assisted in the rescue of nearly 700 cats that were found living in deplorable conditions in High Springs, FL. When responders arrived on the scene, they found the cats housed mainly in unsanitary wire pens throughout the eight-acre property. A veterinarian on the scene determined that many of the cats were underweight and suffering from medical ailments such as upper respiratory infections and parasite infestation.
According to the ASPCA, 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.
The following criteria are used to define animal hoarding:
- 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.
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 walls 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.
- The individual is isolated from the community and appears to be in neglect himself.
- The individual insists all animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Under the guidance of an organization, help the individual with daily animal care chores. If the individual acquires new animals, help ensure that they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated.
Content provided by the ASPCA in conjunction with the Animal Legal and Historical Center.
Image via www.freephotobank.org