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Animal Hoarding Becoming a Serious Welfare Issue

03 June 2015

NEW ZEALAND - Animal hoarding is a recognised psychiatric condition that results in a serious public health and animal welfare issue with evidence of increasing frequency.

Dr Mandy Paterson, RSPCA Queensland, is speaking today about animal hoarding and the important role veterinarians play in recognising the early signs in clients, at the Pan Pacific Veterinary Conference 24-29 May in Brisbane – a joint conference between the Australian Veterinary Association and the New Zealand Veterinary Association.

Dr Paterson says that the experience of RSPCA Queensland is that cats and dogs are the most commonly hoarded animals, but they have also had cases involving rodents, birds, horses and wildlife and cases where two or more species are hoarded together.

“Squalor is found in almost 100 per cent of cases and in some instances the dwellings are not fit for humans to live in. There is often no running water, electricity and the animal hoarder tends to collect other objects, including garbage.”

“Hoarders often fail to provide preventive veterinary care.”

Dr Paterson says a recent study of animal hoarding in New South Wales found that in every hoarding case the animals required veterinary treatment and suffered from a range of inflammatory, infectious and nutritional diseases with most also underweight. In 41.5 per cent of cases, dead bodies were found.

“Hoarders are more likely to be female, middle-aged or older, and be unemployed or on a pension. Hoarders will deny they have a problem and will resist any type of treatment or help,” she said.

Dr Paterson said that veterinarians are well placed to identify hoarders, both early stage hoarders when intervention may be more successful, and established hoarders who should be referred to the RSPCA or equivalent agency.

Some common signs to look out for include:

  • A different pet brought in each time and often not for a second time
  • Pets that are brought in with a traumatic injury or an infectious condition
  • Animals presented with conditions that are preventable with adequate care
  • Animals that are underweight
  • No history of routine care such as vaccination
  • Travelling great distances to visit a vet
  • Bathing and perfuming an animal to cover up odour
  • Being unwilling to say how many animals they have
  • Claiming to have just rescued an animal that is in a deplorable state – matted hair, smelling of urine, overgrown nails
  • Animal showing signs of confinement such as muscle atrophy.

“If a veterinarian suspects a case of hoarding they should try and build trust with the hoarder and question gently about their animals. Hoarding cases should be reported to relevant authorities.

“Unfortunately animal hoarding is not recognised as a specific offence in Australia or New Zealand. Hoarders are usually charged with animal welfare offences. The best outcome should probably include mandated treatment orders and a ban on owning animals for a number of years, if not a lifetime ban.”

ThePetSite News Desk



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