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Thin line between animal rescuing and hoarding

Sunday, January 11, 2015
Your Pet & You

T&T is currently experiencing a problem with overpopulation of dogs and cats. I doubt any citizen or tourist has walked our streets and not come across a garbage bag torn open by a stray dog and the contents strewn all over the road, or a cat furtively slinking across the pavement before disappearing into an open drain, or a skeletal—and often injured—dog hanging around a restaurant in the hope of being thrown some scraps. 

While many people have now become desensitised to such sights in T&T and don’t cast a second glance at stray animals, it is hard for some people to ignore these pitiful, innocent creatures. Some choose to cook or buy food and make it their duty to religiously visit areas where packs of ownerless dogs hang out every day. Others capture roaming animals, get them neutered, and then release them in the area they were found—this way the animals will not reproduce and will no longer contribute to the increasing numbers of stray animals. Others capture strays and take them to one of the two shelters in Trinidad (or the sole shelter in Tobago). The policies of the shelters vary but the fate of the animal is either temporary housing until adoption or euthanasia (put to sleep). Others go the distance and either foster the animal until a permanent home can be found, or they choose to adopt the animal themselves. But what happens when those people who adopt these animals keep adopting more and more?

The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (Harc) was founded in 1997 and is an independent group of academic researchers based in the United States.

Harc defines animal hoarding using the following criteria:

• Having more than the typical number of companion animals

• Failing to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in illness and death from starvation, spread of infectious disease, and untreated injury or medical condition 

• 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 

• Persistence, despite this failure, in accumulating and controlling animals

Animal rescuing, sheltering or fostering are legitimate and worthwhile efforts. Animal hoarding, however, is a complex behaviour that results from a variety of psychological and behavioural deficits that may limit a person's ability to care for themselves or others.

Although hoarding may start out as a seemingly benevolent mission to save animals, eventually the needs of the animals become lost to the person's need for control. Sometimes hoarders act as individuals and other times, they masquerade as animal rescue activities. 

Animal hoarding is considered a form of animal cruelty. Health effects on the animals include malnourishment due to the lack of sufficient food and water; overcrowding which facilitates unsanitary environments, and the spread of diseases among animals; owner neglect due to the physical and financial impossibility of caring for so many. The effects of hoarding on the health and socialisation of the animals involved are severe and lasting, affecting both their physical and psychological well-being.

Animal hoarding also causes many health problems for the people involved. Hoarders fail to correct the deteriorating sanitary conditions of their living spaces, and this gives rise to several health risks for those living in and around hoarding residences. Animal hoarding is at the root of a string of human health problems including poor sanitation, fire hazards, air quality, zoonotic diseases, and neglect of oneself and dependents.

There is a fine line between animal rescuing and animal hoarding—make sure you don’t cross it!

Copyright © Kristel-Marie Ramnath 2015. For further information contact 689-8113 or [email protected]


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