You may have seen or heard about the very small house in Reading where we removed over 40 animals a couple of weeks ago. I had never seen a house where animals were hoarded, so the staff here asked if I’d like to come along. Sure, I said! I hear them talk all the time about their cases and now was my chance to see something first-hand. They had already taken most of the animals out but we needed to go back to get a few cats who had been elusive. The outside appearance of the house was just a tiny preview of what was inside. The upstairs windows were boarded up; the wooden front porch was breaking apart and a small garden overflowed with the scraggly last vestiges of summer flowers. I was already filled with sadness and this was just the beginning.
We entered the foyer and were only able to walk into the house single file. Then the smell hit me. Oh boy. Yes, cats were living here! My eyes started to water from the ammonia odor. Just about every possible floor space was occupied, floor-to-ceiling. This person was more than just an animal hoarder. Dog and cat crates and bird cages were in every area of the first floor, stacked one on top of the other. The floor was covered with paper products – blow-ins from magazines, feces-covered newspapers in the kitchen. Parts of the ceiling were falling down with holes that you could almost see through to the upstairs. I could go on and on with the description of the scenes but what’s most important is how this can happen to someone. As we walked around, my sorrow overwhelmed me more than the odors. How could anyone live like this, and what was the tipping point that sent this person over the edge?
According to animalhoarding.com, “people who hoard animals may use them to fulfill emotional needs that had been previously met by human interaction.” It then turns to obsessive hoarding which consumes all available resources of time, money, and emotion. Most hoarders start out with the best intentions but then can be quickly overwhelmed.
The animals taken from the home in Reading were mostly well-cared for, up-to-date on their shots and not under-fed. Obviously, any money this person had was used for the animals and not for up-keep of the home. However, the animals were living in a prison. Physical health is one thing but mental health is equally important.
Hoarding is a sickness. If you know anyone who is showing signs of going over the edge, seek help for them please.