Re: [weirdwi] Animal hoarding is a surprisingly common compulsion
- Thanks for posting this, Richard. My mom knows a lady who is a cat hoarder. She's known to the authorities, and every so often they check on her to make sure things aren't getting out of control. Last year, they removed 25 cats from her home, many of which had distemper and had to be euthenized.
Unfortunately, with the enhanced breeding and survival ability of local farm cats, some people dropped off several kittens to rid themselves of the excess and she's back up to 15 cats again. I expect she will be getting a visit soon.
"Richard D. Hendricks" <rdh@...> wrote:
Original URL: http://www.jsonline.com/news/wauk/may05/329842.asp
Animal hoarding is a surprisingly common compulsion
Town of Ottawa case illustrates tragic results of over-collecting pets
By JACQUELINE SEIBEL
/Posted: May 29, 2005/
*Ottawa* - From 50 feet away, rescuers knew it was going to be bad. The
ammonia stench was overwhelming.
What they found in a house in rural western Waukesha County was the most
grotesque outcome of a behavior psychologists have a name for: animal
For three hours, rescuers worked with tear-soaked faces pulling more
than 250 cats - including 65 dead - one by one from a Town of Ottawa
home covered in feces and urine and devoid of food.
Animal hoarders are sometimes dismissed as the sweet person trying to do
"good" by rescuing animals or even laughed off as the eccentric cat
lady, experts say.
The grisly discovery in Ottawa shows how out of control hoarding can get.
"This is not a harmless eccentricity," said Randall Lockwood, a
psychologist with the Humane Society of the United States. "There is a
serious mental illness that seriously affects animals, families and the
Lockwood estimates that at any given time there are thousands of cases
of animal hoarding in the U.S. There is no uniform reporting system to
track cases, he said.
Animal hoarding can destroy a family, Lockwood said. A man may leave his
hoarding wife. Children may suffer neglect because the hoarding behavior
In the Ottawa case, caring for the animals is costing the Humane Animal
Welfare Society of Waukesha County about $2,000 a day, in addition to
the emotional toll it has taken on the staff members who are committed
to caring for animals.
One stereotype of the hoarder - the cat lady - often proves true.
Two-thirds of animal hoarders are women, according to the latest
statistics from The Humane Society of the United States' report on
Animal hoarders are usually professionals who are very articulate and
lead an otherwise normal life, Lockwood said.
About one-quarter of animal hoarders force their elderly parents or
young children to live in squalor with the animals, he said.
"They just have remarkably little insight into the pain or suffering
they are causing the animals or their families," Lockwood said.
Mental exam ordered
In Waukesha County Circuit Court last week, Court Commissioner Martin
Binn ordered an Ottawa woman, 48-year-old Margaret Sue Jamel, to undergo
a mental competency examination. Authorities do not yet know why Jamel
hoarded more than 250 cats, but she had exhibited signs this year.
When she was evicted from a Wauwatosa apartment in January, court
records say, she had 25 cats.
"A competency examination is a good first step," said Gary Patronek, a
veterinarian and an epidemiologist who founded the Hoarding of Animals
The consortium is an informal group of researchers, based in the Boston
area, that began in 1997 to study the phenomenon of animal hoarding and
how it affects public health and relates to elder abuse and child neglect.
The examination of Jamel needs to be done by someone who has the
capability of identifying multiple behavioral disorders, Patronek said.
Animal hoarding is not about the number of animals. It is about
satisfying a human need to accumulate animals and control them, Patronek
"It's the rescue that drives them," Patronek said. An animal hoarder can
describe how she received every animal but nothing about the animal
after that, he said.
Experts have not been able to discover what causes the need to collect
animals or how to correct it. Recidivism is 100% without a combination
therapy and constant monitoring, Patronek said. A hoarder will move to
another community and start collecting animals again, as Jamel is
accused of doing.
Darcy Gustavsson of the humane society in Waukesha County said her
organization will not let the courts or the community forget this case.
Many of the rescued cats from the Ottawa home will not survive and will
never be adoptable, she said. As of Friday, 170 cats were alive, but
Gustavsson said 20 of them may not survive.
"The community has to take these things seriously," Gustavsson said.
"First they have to recognize hoarding, and then they have to call us.
"This case didn't have to get to this point."
/Lawrence Sussman of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report./
From the May 30, 2005, editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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