Why Is Animal Hoarding So Difficult To Prosecute
There is often a mental health component in an animal hoarding case causing some communities to divert the hoarder from the criminal justice systems; however the criminal justice system can be a tool for addressing these very issues.
Courts canand shouldrequire convicted animal hoarders to undergo mental health evaluations, and treatment if necessary. This can address the root of the issue, dramatically reducing recidivism rates. It is important to do this through the criminal justice system, so that the court has the authority to enforce a future possession ban, and impose sanctions for failure to comply.
Furthermore, many states have heightened penalties for second or subsequent animal cruelty crimes. If a hoarding case is diverted out of the criminal system, there would be no way to apply these laws if the hoarder commits further animal cruelty.
Other reasons that animal hoarding cases are difficult to prosecute are that: most states have no legal definition for animal hoarding, courts already assign relatively low priority to animal abuse and neglect cases in general, and many people are unfamiliar with the severity of abuse in hoarding situations.
The high cost of caring for animals rescued from hoarders, who often must be cared for at the rescuers expense, is also a huge disincentive for prosecuting hoarding cases. These factors contribute to a lengthy and difficult legal process in securing a positive verdict in any case.
It’s The Care Not The Number
Though you might assume theres some set number of cats or dogs beyond which youd clearly classify as a hoarder, the designation is not so simply achieved. For example, I knew one person with more than 30 cats who I wouldnt call a hoarder . But Ive also known a man with only four pets whose living situation was such that hoarding became a reasonable description.
Which brings me to this explanation: Hoarding isnt about a number. Rather, its about a compulsive need to acquire animals that reaches an overwhelming state, resulting in unintentional animal neglect or abuse.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself or someone you know who might be showing signs of being overwhelmed by their menagerie:
- Are the pets properly taken care of according to modern animal welfare practices and veterinary standards of care?
- Does each pet have a place to retreat if feeling stressed? In other words, is there no evidence of overcrowding?
- Are they legally kept and not considered a burden on the community?
- Can the owner provide daily care for every pet without feeling irritable, overwhelmed or trapped?
- Are the pets and their environment clean?
- Financially, can the owner reasonably afford their care in the event of an emergency?
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Hoarding Situation At Waterford Home Leads To Removal Of Over 40 Cats
WATERFORD, CT – Dozens of cats were taken from a Waterford home last Thursday and a community came together to help them.
The cats were removed from the residence due to the hoarding situation inside, animal control officials revealed.
I checked into the situation and sure enough there were a whole lot of cats in the house and on the property,” said;Robert Yuchniuk, Waterford Animal Control.
Dozens of cats were taken from a Waterford home this past Thursday.
Officials had originally captured or trapped 36 cats from the elderly couple’s care, with an additional seven that were already voluntarily surrendered the week prior.
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Our Study Supports The Idea That Animal Hoarding Should Be Considered And Recognized As A Genuine Form Of Animal Abuse And Incompetent Pet Ownership
Hoarding animals is an under-researched problem. It is not a psychiatric disorder in its own right, although it does appear under the general umbrella of hoarding disorders in the DSM-5. The authors of this paper say media reports present hoarders as devoted animal lovers or harmless eccentrics. The full scale of the problem is often not understood.
The study looked at all animal hoarding cases reported to a large Spanish humane society, the Asociación Nacional de Amigos de los Animales . Most of the cases were in Madrid, although some were in other parts of the country and were referred to the ANAA by other humane societies. It is likely there were other cases in Spain during this time that went unnoticed or were not reported to ANAA.
Previous research has suggested that most hoarders are female. In this study, about half of the hoarders were male and half female. It seems that hoarding is a middle-aged or older persons problem, with 63 percent of the hoarders aged over 65 and about another third in middle-age. As in previous studies, most of the hoarders lived alone, although three lived with someone else. All of them were said to have a bad or borderline financial situation.
Hoarders are typically unaware there is a problem, and this was the case for most of the people in this study, too. Only three of the 24 cases admitted there was a problem with their living conditions, and only one agreed that the animals welfare was compromised.
How Many Animals Is Considered Hoarding
Its hard to tell specifically just how many is too many to be considered hoarding when it comes to keeping cats. For one person who has a big space, and can afford veterinary bills and the overall management of cats, 20 could be acceptable.
However, the term animal hoarding is more on the negative side since it equates to animal neglect. Animal hoarding usually involves keeping pets in poor conditions; pets are not given proper care and food and shelter are not adequately provided.
If a person keeps more cats than he can care for, such as being unable to keep up with the animals food and medical needs, that is already considered hoarding. An animal hoarder is also in denial of the animals horrid conditions; he or she fails to see that one or more animals are in need of serious attention.
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Animal Hoarding: What It Is What It Isnt And How You Can Help
Crowded, cramped, horrendous, filthy, deplorable. Animal welfare organizations, including Animal Humane Society, may use these words when describing cases of animal hoarding. Photos support these descriptions, leaving viewers horrified at the conditions in which animals, and often humans, lived.
What those words and photos dont convey is the fear, anxiety, denial, and delusion thats almost always at the core of animal hoarding.
The general public might dismiss hoarding as malicious, villainous, even evil but hoarding is rarely these things. In both law enforcement and the mental health community, theres growing recognition that we need to approach hoarding cases with more empathy and less judgement. When we acknowledge hoarding as a psychiatric illness, treatment can be more effective and the pattern is less likely to be repeated which benefits the animals we all care for.
Hoarding Cats: How To Recognize Animal Hoarding
The practice of animal hoarding is a danger not only to the safety and happiness of cats, but also to the community in which the hoarding occurs. Toward end of the 20th century, animal welfare professionals, mental health experts, veterinarians, and other animal lovers began looking seriously at animal hoarding.
Among other things, they wanted to describe and classify the behavior in hopes of finding treatments to help those individuals affected by the behavior and, in turn, save the lives of animals. Nearly 60% of animal hoarding cases are considered repeat offenders who have experienced treatment or intervention of some type in the past.
Here are some insights into what researchers have found and ways to spot hoarding situations in your community.
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The Difficulty With Prosecuting Hoarders
As previously stated, prosecuting hoarders can be problematic. In most states, individual charges will not be laid because of the burden on the system. Much of the time, rather than prosecute, officials will offer a plea bargain in exchange for the animals being turned over. The trouble with this is that hoarders dont usually change their ways, and in the absence of mandatory psychological counselling, they dont get the help they need to change, supposing they actually want to. For every single charge that is brought, prosecutors must offer proof of the harm done. So, they go with the one charge they know they can prove, the system isnt burdened, and the offender gets off relatively lightly. Then they just go back to hoarding.
The laws are woefully lacking, psychological help for hoarders virtually non-existent, and the results of hoarding horrific. Lets talk more about those results.
A Forfeiture And Bond Laws
Most states have laws that allow authorities to seize abused animals from their abusive owners. ; The power to seize hoarded animals is necessary to save the animals from cruel conditions, but it is extremely expensive for the state and private shelters to care for the animals. ; Beyond basic food and shelter considerations, the animals often need veterinary care and many require euthanization. ; For example, local organizations in New Yorks Fulton County spent more than $100,000 caring for 230 animals seized from one couple. ; The animals are also considered evidence in the prosecution, which means they cannot be adopted out or sent to foster homes until the prosecution is complete. ;
These bond laws pass constitutional scrutiny when they are carefully drafted to ensure that the hoarders due process rights are not violated. ; HARCs website lists some of the provisions necessary for ensuring due process rights as:
- Providing the defendant with sufficient notice and an opportunity for a hearing before any security is posted.
- Requiring the authority to secure a court order for to humanely dispose of the animal at the end of the time for which expenses are covered by the security.
- Providing for the courts discretion in waiving or reducing the amount of the bond. ; This ability to waive or reduce the bond will ensure due process and equal protection to any indigent person so that he/she is not deprived of his/her property or access to the courts based on the ability to pay the bond.
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How Common Is Hoarding
While it is difficult to determine how common different levels of hoarding are, experts have collected data on hoarding disorder in general. According to estimates, anywhere from 26% of the population lives with hoarding disorder. Men may be more likely than women to experience hoarding disorder, and older people aged 5594 are three times more likely than those aged 3444 to be hoarders.
Conditions Associated With Hoarding
The public tends to think that animal hoarding only occurs with hundreds of animals, similar to many stories seen on the news. Its possible, however, for similar behaviors and outcomes to affect homes with fewer animals if the level of care and condition of the animals are deteriorating. One person may easily live with a dozen or more animals who are healthy and happy while another person might be overwhelmed by three or four.
The working definition of hoarding includes these factors:
- Failing to provide minimal standards of care
- Failing to act on the deterioration of the home environment and animals condition
- Negative affects on people and animals in the home
It is very common for individuals who show hoarding behaviors to become unaware of the degree to which care has deteriorated. They may be unaware of an animals needs and claim conditions are not that bad, or simply refuse to acknowledge signs of physical or mental distress in animals. During studies of hoarding behaviors, researchers have found that many people will develop rationalizations for their behavior.
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Who Hoards Animals And Why
As with other acts of animal cruelty, it may be impossible to know for sure what motivates the abuse and profound neglect inflicted by hoarders. We do know that 72% of hoarders are women and that the most common animal victims of hoarders are cats, followed by dogs.
Because recidivism rates for hoarders are almost 100%, the only long-term solution for stopping their behavior is to prevent them from owning animals, and to require mental health evaluations and treatment if necessary.
Is Animal Hoarding A Distinct Mental Disorder
There are many differences between people that hoard objects and those that collect critters
For better or worse, hoarding has gotten a lot of attention in recent years;due to the;popularity of several TV shows, including Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive. People suffering from the disorder collect objects, stuffing every available corner of their homes and cars with anything from clothes to old newspapers to bags of trash.;The disorder can be serious, leading to unsafe living arrangements and social isolation.;
But the results are even more problematic for people who collect animals.;A new study, published in the journal;Psychiatry Research,;examines the motivations behind so-called animal hoarding, suggesting that the disorder is not actually as closely related to object hoarding as once thought, reports;Michael Price at;Science. Unlike previous approaches to the disorder, the latest study suggests that animal;hoarding should be classified as an independent disorder with the hope of developing specialized treatments to help these people;cope with the compulsion to collect critters.
Animal hoarders acquire and live with dozens or even hundreds of creatures in their homes, causing suffering for;both the hoarder and animals. The people and their creatures often live in poor conditions; the animals often lack;adequate food and medical treatment. And though this seems similar to object hoarding, the latest study;addresses several differences that may influence treatments.
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How Are Animals Affected
Different animal species may be acquired by hoarders but most studies in Australia have found cats to be the most common species affected . This might be explained by cats being relatively easy and cheap to acquire and their breeding cycle is faster than dogs, including kittens reaching breeding age by 16 weeks. Other animals may also be subjected to hoarding including rodents, birds, dogs, horses, farm animals and even wildlife.
The main problems observed include confined and grossly inadequate housing, poor nutrition, and even starvation, poor hygiene, failure to desex, lack of enrichment and health care. These problems are often so severe that the animals are unable to be rehabilitated and rehomed. These impacts are described below.
Animal Hoarders: The Illness And The Crime
Animal hoardersonce described as collectors whose good intentions had gone awryare now recognized as individuals whose mental illness or compulsion can cause criminal behavior with horrific consequences for animals, the hoarders families, and their communities.
The Animal Hoarder: A Profile According to Dr. Gary J. Patronek, V.M.D., Ph.D., oarders are by definition oblivious to the extreme suffering, obvious to the causal observer, of their animals.1
There are four characteristics indicative of hoarding behavior:
- Hoarders amass a large number of animals.
- Hoarders fail to provide for animals most basic physical and social needs, including food, water, shelter, veterinary care, and sanitary living conditions.
- Hoarders offer excuses for, or deny, the abysmal living conditions of their animals and, in some cases, their children.
- Persistence in accumulating and controlling animals.2
That someone could love animals but be so immeasurably cruel to them sounds paradoxical, says Dr. Randall Lockwood, Senior Vice President for Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects for the ASPCA. This is due to a failure in recognizing that suffering is actually one of the characteristics of compulsive animal hoarding.3This aspect of hoarding behavior is common among so-called no-kill shelters, where animals are often warehoused for years in deplorable conditions rather than provided with a peaceful and painless death by qualified technicians.
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Cat Hoarders: The Signs And Consequences
What do you think about when you hear the term cat hoarder? You might think that anyone who has over a certain number of cats can be called a hoarder, but in fact animal hoarding is a serious situation usually caused by mental illness. A cat hoarder will have an extremely large number of cats, much more than a typical household, and theyre unable to provide decent standards of care, which sadly;causes their cats to suffer.
Neighbor Has Too Many Cats: What Should I Do
Having multiple cats as pets can be a great and rewarding experience. There are some cat owners that tend to take the more the merrier approach to owning cats however. When it gets to this point, things can easily get out of hand and turn into a nuisance. If your neighbor has too many cats, you might end up being the one dealing with the trouble. What can you do about it though?
If you think that your neighbor has too many cats, unfortunately theres not much you can do about it. If however the cats are not in good condition or their owner cant keep up with their maintenance, you can report the owner to animal services or the local health department.
For cat lovers, theres no such thing as keeping too many cats. However, if the cats prove to be a nuisance, there are steps you can take to deal with the issue, which will be discussed in this article.
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Laws Related To Animal Hoarding
The law sees animal hoarding as a form of animal abuse and is covered under the animal cruelty statute. Every state has slightly different animal cruelty laws but one commonality between all these laws is that caretakers should be able to provide sufficient amounts of food, water, and veterinary care. They are also required to provide adequate shelter, else they can be prosecuted.;
That being said, animal cruelty laws consider animal hoarding a misdemeanor offense in most states which makes them not as effective in preventing this type of activity. A few states have made the effort to make their animal cruelty laws less vague and more strict. These states consider animal neglect as a felony offense and have specific prohibitions against hoarding animals.