Animal hoarding: why do people collect animals when they are sick? – Society

The numbers were astonished. The German Animal Welfare Association recently announced 59 cases of animal collecting addiction – more than 3,600 animals have been affected. The number of unreported cases could be much higher. There are an average of 62 animals, mostly cats or dogs, in the homes of collectors. But what drives people to get so many animals? Where does the love of animals end and where does pathological hoarding begin?

“It’s hard to name a number of animals,” says Sarah Ross of the animal welfare organization Four Paws. The determining factor is the condition in which the animals live. According to Ross, hoarders fail to meet even the most basic standards of nutrition, sanitation, housing, and veterinary care.

This neglect often leads to illness and death from starvation, the spread of infectious diseases, and untreated injury or disease. However, hoarders were unaware of the inability to provide supplies, and despite the failures, Ross continued to forcibly collect.

Hoarding of animals as a manifestation of mental disorder

Dietrich Mons, president of the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists, describes hoarding in animals as a symptom of mental illness. “It comes to a loss of control, and sufferers often also suffer from self-neglect, which can be an expression of depression. Added to this is a compulsion to collect – not just animals. All this then is an expression of a mental disorder.”

Hoarding of animals is often accompanied by the so-called Messi syndrome. Collecting things get out of hand, and flats or damaged homes are almost uninhabitable. However, one difference between Macy’s syndrome and hoarding animals is that in the latter case, animal care requires intervention, according to Mons.

Animal hoarding is often associated with chaos syndrome, in which sufferers leave their homes neglected.Photo: imago stock and people

“Often animals kept by collectors die prematurely,” Sarah Ross says. Then some of the carcasses of these animals would not be removed and would decompose in the dwelling, among the living animals, sometimes feeding on the dead ones. “The general condition leads to complete neglect of animals, people, apartments, home and property.”

Fatally, a hoarder will not realize the need to reduce animal numbers to normal levels, nor will they show awareness of their inability to adequately care for animals. The last resort is for the authorities to step in.

Corona amplifies the problem

In their case collections, animal rights activists have counted more than 26,000 affected animals since 2012. The number of unreported cases may be much higher, particularly since the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdown and social isolation have increased pet purchases since 2020, and the puppy trade is booming.

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“Even if the numbers do not directly show whether and how the Corona pandemic affects the problem, the increasing isolation of people may lead to more cases of hoarding animals in the long term,” says Moira Gerlach, a pet specialist in Germany for Animal Welfare. organisation.

In particular, people who already had a tendency to keep many animals before the epidemic and who already had underlying psychological problems are prone to increased animal hoarding.

The Animal Protection Association advocates the creation of a comprehensive central registry of collectors that can be viewed by veterinary authorities and the Pet Protection Act with clear specifications for the breeding and conservation of individual animal species. In addition, collecting animals should be considered a disease. Cases of the past few weeks show the scale of the animal hoarding problem again in 2021.

When animal love becomes a problem: The pathological combination of animals is called animal hoarding. (Icon picture)Photo: Photo Alliance / AP Photo

At the end of July, the Dusseldorf police confiscated 18 dogs. On the same day, 27 cats were taken from a two-room apartment in Hasberg. At the beginning of August, animal rights activists rescued another 18 cats from a house in Bochum. The animals were housed in animal shelters and cared for there.

“There is no healthy animal love”

But where is the line between loving animal care and pathological hoarding? “The Animal Hoarder himself does not suffer. Dietrich Munz says that he lives the situation without himself suffering and believes, on the contrary, that it provides protection for the animals.” “The line between love of animals and hoarding is always fluid.”

Sarah Ross also confirms this: “Hoarding animals is not a healthy love for animals. Animal owners love them very much, but they are no longer able to care for animals in a species-appropriate way. This leads to severe animal suffering.”

Animal hoarders are often stigmatized, and Mons advocates consciously dealing with those affected: “These are people who have great psychological difficulties. It is important to provide social assistance so that those affected feel helped rather than punished.”

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Most people who are unmarried, divorced, or widowed over the age of 50 or 60 are affected. The higher number of women hoarding animals is also remarkable. Social fears and a lonely, isolated life are typical of the hoarder, often combined with strong self-doubt and a fear of rejection, explains psychiatrist Moons.

45 cases in Berlin alone between 2016 and 2020

Last year, the AfD MP in Berlin, Mark Wallendar, asked a parliamentary question about animal hoarding. According to the response of the Senate Department of Justice, Consumer Protection and Anti-Discrimination published by the Chamber of Deputies in November 2020, 45 cases of illegally stored animals have been recorded in Berlin since 2016.

In particular, the letter said, more and more dogs and cats are being found with the so-called animal mess. These data may relate to seizures in cases where many animals have been kept.

Orders of size varied: in Friedrichshain Kreuzberg, among others, 215 canaries were seized during an operation in 2018. In another case, 57 cats were discovered in an apartment in Tempelhof Schoenberg. Also 90 chickens (Steglitz-Zehlendorf) and 23 snakes (Tempelhof-Schöneberg) appeared in the stats.

However, the numbers only reflect a fraction of the actual cases. According to the Senate administration, many counties will not collect this data at all. Added to this is the number of unreported cases.
(with AFP, dpa)

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