Animal Planet's New Show Looks at Animal Hoarding
Many of us love animals and enjoy our pets. Animal Planet has a new show, 'Confessions: Animal Hoarding' billed as “an unflinchingly honest look at a human condition that affects people and animals.” It looks at the condition which has gone past simple love and enjoyment of our pets.
Animal hoarding is a form of compulsive hoarding in which the person collects and hoards pets rather than items such as clothing, books, newspapers. While hoarding can be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), animal hoarding has important differences with OCD-related hoarding as it does not seem to share the same array of repetitive compulsive behaviors such as washing or checking compulsions.
Animal hoarding has considerable overlap with impulse control disorders. A recent (June 2010) in-depth review by eminent psychologists explains the differences between OCD and hoarding, and suggests there is sufficient evidence for creation of a new disorder, provisionally called hoarding disorder, in DSM-V.
According to the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, the pathological accumulation of animals was first described in 1981. Animal hoarding was formally defined in the public health literature in 1999 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
The basic features of animal hoarding (failure to provide adequate food and water, failure to provide necessary veterinary care to treat a disease or injury, failure to provide a sanitary environment) have been used to define animal cruelty laws in every state.
When a person hoards animals, it puts the person’s health and the animals health at risk. The extreme clutter can increase fire hazards. The increased amounts of feces and urine can damage dwellings beyond repair and release a host of potentially toxic bioaerosols and gases (especially ammonia) into the air.
Bioaerosols include a wide variety of inflammatory and physiologically active components, including endotoxin, fungal cell wall fragments, and dust particles that can reach lower airways.
Ammonia is a known irritant of the eyes and upper respiratory tract. It is produced by the decay of animal waste.
All forms of hoarding carry the risk of elder neglect, child neglect, and self-neglect. Dependent/vulnerable adults or children are found in 10-15% of hoarding cases.
With more than 3,500 cases a year, animal hoarding puts a strain on families, finances, the 250,000 animals affected annually and the health of everyone involved.