Friday, August 12, 2016

Is the crazy cat lady mentally ill? When is animal hoarding, which is on the rise, a crime?

Should animal hording, which is on the rise, be considered a crime or a sign of mental illness that needs to be treated? There are an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 animal hording cases each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Sarah Breitenbach reports for Stateline. Those cases involve 250,000 animals, with the average number of animals involved per case being 50, with some cases involving thousands of animals. (ASPCA photo)

Despite the rise in cases, only two states—Hawaii and Illinois—have explicitly prohibited animal hording, Breitenbach writes. "Others rely on animal-neglect statutes that prosecute hoarders for failing to provide adequate food, water, veterinary and other care. But prosecutors are often hesitant to pursue these time-consuming cases because they require finding care for living animals and filing separate charges for each animal victim. So, groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund are pushing states to adopt laws that could end hoarding in other ways."

ALDF lawyer Lora Dunn said "prosecuting animal hoarding cases is important, because without long-term intervention animal hoarders are all but guaranteed to re-offend," Breitenbach writes. "They need to be monitored for future instances of hoarding, she said."

"But stopping animal hoarding cases is more complicated than just filing criminal charges and taking away beloved, though neglected, pets, said Randall Lockwood, a psychologist working on anti-cruelty projects at the ASPCA," Breitenbach writes. "Prosecuting animal hoarders is equivalent to criminalizing a mental health disorder, he said. In 2013, 'hoarding disorder' was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It was linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder, addictive disorders and personal trauma, like the loss of a spouse."

"Many animal hoarders he has encountered suffered abuse as children and had parents who were alcoholics or drug addicts. Often, they were looking to pets to fill the void of human bonds," Breitenbach writes. "That attachment persists even after the animals are dead, he said, pointing to a case in which an animal hoarder in Virginia made individual coffins for his 'dozens and dozens' of cats, keeping their remains in a shed." (Read more)

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