Have you ever felt you’d like to adopt every homeless animal and take care of it? Well, you aren’t alone, says Dr. Issam Kadri of Richmond Hill Animal Hospital.
It’s not necessarily a good idea, though, because often what begins as a well-intentioned deed ends up becoming a case of animal hoarding. This isn’t in the best interests of either the animals or the person, and there have been a number of cases highlighted in the media over the years.
Characteristics of Animal Hoarding
Animal hoarders can come from every walk of life; they can be any gender, any ethnic background and any age group. One of the most common denominators is a desire to help animals, and a belief that they are doing good by “caring” for them. Often, they believe they are the only ones who can care for their animals, and hoarding cases frequently start out as legitimate attempts to rescue strays or save animals from euthanasia in shelters. Hoarders usually live alone, with young children or disabled adults who aren’t able to intervene in their situation.
When concerned neighbours complain to animal welfare about the number of pets kept in a home, the investigations that follow typically find little evidence of intentional cruelty. Hoarding is a form of mental illness and although hoarders are usually in over their heads and unable to care properly for their animals, neglect is common and few incidences exist of real abuse. Because of the difficulty animal welfare workers have in enforcing the law, however, often charges of cruelty are the only way to get authorities to take action.
How to Recognize Animal Hoarding
Some of the signs of animal hoarding are obvious, while others are less so. If you see indications that someone you know or who lives close by has a number of cats, dogs or other animals, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are hoarding. If the animals are well cared for, they live in a clean environment and get regular veterinary treatment, there’s a good chance all is well.
Here are the signs to watch out for if you suspect someone of potential animal hoarding in Richmond Hill:
- They have a high number of animals and sometimes don’t know exactly how many they have.
- The home appears run down and dirty, and you see few if any attempts to clean it up and maintain it.
- You detect a smell coming from the home, particularly an ammonia-like odour.
- The animals appear to be in poor condition – they are thin, their coats are dull and they are not well socialized.
- You see signs of fleas, rats and cockroaches on the property.
- The person keeps to themselves and doesn’t mix with others, rarely goes out and looks as if he or she doesn’t take care of themselves.
- The person insists that all his animals are healthy and happy – even if it doesn’t look like they are.
What to Do
If you suspect someone is hoarding animals in Richmond Hill, contact the City of Toronto’s Animal Services department. If the person lives outside the city limits, the Ontario SPCA is your first port of call. Both services have the authority to get a warrant and remove any animals that they believe are in distress, and they will also arrange for the hoarder to be referred to a mental health professional for treatment. It’s usually not a good idea to approach the person directly, because once they become defensive it’s harder for the authorities to deal with them.
Let’s make it a better world for all animals. Report suspected animal hoarding and you can help both the individual and the animals in his or her care. Too often, cases go unreported because friends, family and neighbours don’t want to be the cause of animals being put down. Don’t let them go on living in misery.