If you have a friend that you believe is hoarding animals, wanting to help them can leave you feeling overwhelmed and hopeless; however, there are things you can do to help your friend and the animals they are hoarding. Here are a few great places to start.
What is a hoarding disorder?
The first thing to do is learn more about hoarding disorders, so that you have a better understanding of what your friend is going through. There is a difference between a hoarding disorder and being disorganized or cluttered. Knowing the signs and symptoms will help you determine the level of help needed.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the symptoms of hoarding include an inability to throw things away, severe anxiety when faced with getting rid of things, a failure to organize possessions. The individual will also feel overwhelmed or embarrassed by their possessions, get anxious about people touching their things, and act compulsively about needing to check on their things. Finally, they will experience impairments, such as decreased living space, isolation, strained relationships, financial problems, and health problems due to their hoarding.
Hoarding is caused by a broad spectrum of issues including obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and depression. Hoarding can also develop out of trauma or significant loss in the individual’s life. When someone experiences a significant loss or trauma, they may place a high value on the things they are hoarding, which makes everything seem irreplaceable.
Problems that can occur when hoarding animals
Hoarding animals is caused by the same factors and displays the same symptoms; however, the “things” people are collecting are animals, which leads to significantly greater problems. Hoarding animals endangers the animals and is detrimental to the health of the animals and the people living in the house. Maintaining proper cleanliness and hygiene becomes nearly impossible due to the number of animals. Additionally, as the hoarding increases, it becomes more difficult for the individual to feed and vet the animals properly.
Hoarding animals also presents problems from the animals’ feces, which can lead to health problems. An abundance of feces will smell bad, negatively impacting the living space and possibly intruding on the neighbors. Hoarding animals is a serious condition that will require professional help.
How to help someone who may be hoarding animals
Find a therapist that specializes in hoarding for your friend to see. If your friend is willing to seek help, you can be there as a support system. After seeing the therapist, you can help your friend by arranging an animal removal service for any woodland creatures or dead animals that are in the house or on the property. You can also contact the local animal protective agency to help with viable domestic animals. When removed from a hoarding situation, animals often display serious health problems that will need to be addressed before the animals will be ready for adoption.
If your friend is unwilling to go for the help they need and cooperate with the clean out, you’ll need to consider how dangerous the situation is for your friend and the animals. If the animals are being cared for and your friend seems to be handling the situation appropriately, you can stay close and continuously encourage them to seek help pointing out irrational behaviors. But if you fear for your friend or the animals, you can push the issue by getting animal protective services involved. If your friend is an older person, you can also get elderly protective services involved.
While you may be concerned about potentially getting your friend in trouble for their treatment of the animals, legal intervention may be the only way to address the situation. Part of the symptoms of hoarding is the individual’s inability to see the damage they are causing.