The American Psychiatric Association’s classification of hoarding as an official mental disorder in the latest edition of its “diagnostic bible” shines a light on the seriousness of this problem.
When hoarders accumulate animals, the consequences are dire. Hundreds of sick and scared animals may be crammed into one home, where every surface is buried in inches of feces and food and water are scarce. Animal hoarders often believe they are “saving” animals when they are actually sentencing them to slow, miserable deaths from neglect. Experts have long agreed that dementia and other mental health disorders may play a part in hoarding cases.
It is absolutely vital that hoarders receive help, including psychological counseling and a ban on owning or harboring animals, with animal control officials ensuring compliance. Without intervention, the relapse rate for hoarders is near 100 percent, according to Dr. Gail Steketee, a professor at Boston University’s School of Social Work.
I urge readers to notify authorities right away if they notice signs of animal hoarding. For more information, visit www.PETA.org.
Martin Mersereau, Director
Emergency Response Team, Cruelty Investigations Department, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)