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From the Horse’s Mouth

( Shreyasi Majumdar, Editor ) Boarding or Hoarding? Know the Difference This articles stems from a spate of disturbing reports of animal hoarding within our area. Animal cruelty takes on various forms – from slaughter to pet abandonment, abuse to circus animals to vivisection. In a bid to protect animals from such hideous forms of consciously inflicted torture, subtler forms of animal abuse and neglect (stemming from misplaced kindness) often take a backseat. Animal hoarding is one such instance. According to a 1999 study by Dr. Patronek, a leading expert on the worldwide phenomenon, defined animal hoarders as: “People who accumulate a large number of animals; fail to provide minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation and veterinary care; and fail to act on the deteriorating condition of the animals, the environment, and their own health. Hoarders justify their behavior with the view that the animals are surrogate children and that no one else can care for them. They harbor a fear that if they seek help, the animals will be euthanized.” (www.animal hoarding.com) Although, the above mentioned fears may be real, it is the animal (or in such cases, animals) that get the raw end of the deal. This kind of compulsive hoarding is often characterized as a mental disorder and neglect and cruelty meted out to the unfortunate animals, is usually not deliberate, being veiled by an overwhelming sense of attachment to the animals and a deep sense of responsibility for their ‘welfare’. In such instances, what the owner perceives as welfare, blatantly appears to the rest of the world to be neglect. Therefore, although such cruelty is not vicious or deliberate, it is cruelty all the same. One has to also take into consideration, that it is not only the animals affected by short-term and lasting consequences. Humans too (the owners themselves as well as people living in the surrounding areas), often fall victims to this aberrant behavior, in terms of sanitation and otherwise. Self-neglect and elder/child abuse are very often consequences of unnatural animal hoarding. The former happens when (in most cases) the owners lifestyle and sanitary conditions begin to mirror those of his/her animals. The latter occurs when the animal hoarder has elderly dependents or children living with them and cannot afford to provide them with proper, healthy, hygienic, normal and sanitary living conditions on account of the excessive numbers of animals. The issue has gained such importance in the recent years that the ASPCA actually has a “Hoarding Prevention Team” to work with hoarders and help them manage a ‘healthier’ number of pets. Given the emotional attachment to the pets that hoarders normally possess, it can be an extremely difficult job, both for the hoarder and the case worker. Interestingly, these cases are not limited to the U.S.A. and Europe. It is documented elsewhere too. Whether it’s a lady  living in a really tiny room with many cats and dogs in cages, most of them had been electrocuted to death on account of a short circuit, a fate from which they would have survived if they were free to run away. Or an NGO office bearer – who had animals tied inside her deserted home for months on end, and perfectly healthy animals insider her shelter, in cages and kennels. Or a family with more than 50 animals and 15 children all living in a space too small to accommodate even half the numbers – in deplorable conditions. What is of utmost concern here that this is being done by those who claim to be an integral part of the welfare community. They cannot understand the extent of abuse the animals go through and criticize efforts of rehabilitation. Once again, it all comes down to the level of ignorance in any society. And of course, it also boils down to legitimate laws and their implementation. Unfortunately, laws against animal hoarding, are few and far between and weak to say the least. In the U.S.A, many states do not legally define animal hoarding as an offense and most people are surprisingly ignorant about the severity of neglect in animal hoarding cases. Also, when animals are rescued from hoarders, the costs involved in maintaining, treating and rehabilitating them are often too high and serve to demotivate people from taking action against hoarders. As such, it is necessary for us, as conscientious citizens and animals lovers, to keep a lookout for such ‘under-the-cover’ cruelty. If you know a hoarder or come across one be bold enough to inform the right authorities and legitimate animal welfare groups – and don’t stop until some action is taken, in favor of the animals. Remember, boarding does not always equate to kindness and hoarding almost always equates to malnourishment, disease, pain and very often death. Kindness is good, but misplaced kindness can kill. Best regards, Shreyasi Majumdar

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