We had a call from a new client enquiring about our probate valuation and OCD house clearance services. ‘Why, oh why,’ they wanted to know ‘did the old lady have so many cats? They have taken over the house. How would anybody want to live like that?’
How indeed, many people puzzle who don’t understand hoarding is an obsession the affected person can do little about without help and advice. We write this post in the hope of encouraging a more holistic approach to animal hoarding in society.
A Strictly Scientific Explanation of the Phenomenon
The general public does not understand why and how this illogical behaviour emerges among a sliver of the population. The answer may lie in attachment theory, or the explanation of how people bond with each other across time and space.
Some of us find it incredibly difficult to form these bonds. The root cause may be a failure in childhood to connect with parents, or significant others. This affects subsequent social integration and the evaluation of self.
Adults who find themselves in this position may form compensatory attachments with animals instead. A relationship with a favoured pet helps build self-esteem and a feeling of being wanted.
A more holistic approach to animal hoarding like this can help explain things. Things like why some people with compulsive hoarding syndrome choose to accumulate animals, and not inanimate objects. Indeed, there is some evidence compulsive hoarders form emotional attachments with their objects too.
A More Holistic Approach to Animal Hoarding
The Animal Humane Society in Minnesota comes across creatures of many kinds living in crowded, cramped and sometimes filthy conditions. They are at the sharp end of the process, yet they somehow manage to maintain a balanced viewpoint. We share this here because we believe it is equally relevant in the UK.
Animal hoarding is seldom ‘malicious, villainous, even evil’
The society and its law enforcement personnel are taking a more holistic approach to animal hoarding nowadays. They recognize it as an outward sign of an underlying mental condition. And they understand the need to approach each case with less judgement and greater empathic understanding.
The society’s take on animal hoarding
The Animal Humane Society in Minnesota defines animal hoarding as ‘an accumulation of animals overwhelming the person’s ability to care properly for them’. Therefore, basic nutrition, sanitation, shelter, socialization and veterinary care may be absent without deliberate neglect intended.
The Potential Impact on The Animals
We don’t want to go into the details here. Suffice to say none of us imagined the situations the Society describes. Cramped conditions in close quarters may lead to uncontrolled breeding among dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, fish, etc. One concerning detail we share is four cats can become hundreds of cats in just a few short years.
Unpacking This Approach to Animal Hoarding
The Animal Humane Society takes great care to separate breeding and animal hoarding. In the former instance the intention is making money, and there is a humane duty of care.
However, compulsive hoarding of animals is driven by a desire for social company instead of loneliness. There is no intention to take advantage of the creatures, because there is a bond of affection. We can sometimes recover the situation by cleaning a hoarded house.
Humane Society Picks Up Pieces Society Does Not Want
A compulsive hoarder is seldom willing to abandon their charges. Indeed, they may be blissfully unaware of the situation in their secret, fantasy world. The society may therefore have no option in terms of their remit but to take action.
‘In either situation, whether animals are surrendered or seized, it’s tough,’ they say. ‘There can be an incredible amount of emotion involved.’ They have developed this working model:
- ‘RESCUE HOARDERS’ are convinced only they know how to care properly for the creatures in their collection. A strong desire to save them triggers their obsession. They become oblivious to the living conditions as enablers gather round to support them with donations
- ‘OVERWHELMED CAREGIVERS’ on the other hand form strong attachments with their collection. This often compensates them for their social isolation. If someone criticises their standards of care they often blame a sudden change in financial circumstances, or their physical health
These differences affect the way the Animal Humane Society responds to call outs. Their more holistic approach to animal hoarding has taught them that caregivers often respond positively to offers of help. Whereas rescue hoarders, on the other hand may treat their offer as threatening the survival of their collections.
To Summarise the Situation from an Animal Rescue Viewpoint
- Hoarding animals satisfies the hoarder’s need to keep animals and care for them
- However, the needs of the animals fade into the background as the hoarder becomes overwhelmed
- Women in their fifties are most likely to hoard animals. However all ages and genders participate
- The Covid-19 surge in deaths in people over 50 will increase the number of animals needing new homes
- This burden falls by default on animal shelters who ‘take care of things like that’
The Animal Humane Society Wraps the Situation Up
The Society understands the psychological factors behind animal hoarding. However, its holistic approach to the situation encourages dealing with the current facts in the present moment.
It respects hoarder for what it views as ‘an overwhelming sense of responsibility to protect their animals from society’. It therefore understands how traumatic removing them is for an emotionally-bonded human being.
Moreover, breaking up a hoard does not change the hoarder’s orientation. Hence the Animal Humane Society stays in touch with known animal hoarders, and tries to manage the situation as best it can.
Our Thoughts On a More Holistic Approach to Animal Hoarding
We’re inclined to think the Animal Humane Society’s approach is the more correct one. We agree with the imperative to protect animals from neglect, while at the same time we understand how powerful bonds can be between humans and their pets.
Avery Associates is able to arrange comprehensive OCD house clearance services extending to garages, sheds, gardens and allotments. Our agents check carefully for anything of value and await our clients’ instruction regarding their disposal.
Avery Associates offers this service as an extension to our probate valuation portfolio, and other related tasks that flow from the need to wind up a deceased estate and distribute the assets.
We are animal lovers ourselves and we do more than simply cleaning a house. We ensure hoarded animals and other creatures are taken to licensed, registered shelters where they receive the quality of care they need.
Please call our head office in Mitcham, Surrey on 0800 567 7769, or mobile 0208 640 00 44 if we can be of assistance. We welcome all enquiries concerning general probate assistance, probate valuations, and house clearances. We assure you of our very best service at all times.