The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies hoarding as a disorder that requires intervention. This is further aggravated when hoarding does not involve just material things but also live animals. This results in unsanitary living conditions for both the animals and the individual – and may even seep into the community. With the extent of the impact of hoarding, it will require a multi-disciplinary initiative to fully address the problem.
To expound on this topic is Adam Leath from Volusia County Animal Services where he currently is the Director. He has a prolific career and experience in animal control and animal law. He’s been the Southeast Regional Director of the Field Investigations and Response Team at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and President of the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association. He’s certified as a National Animal Cruelty Investigator, Equine Cruelty Investigator, and expert witness in animal fighting and animal cruelty.
On this session, Adam unpacks hoarding specifically, and talks about:
- What animal hoarding is, the conditions that make one a hoarder and how it impacts a person’s life.
- Looking at the living conditions humans and animals are forced to live in as observed in animal hoarding cases and how it impacts the person and the animals.
- Tips for those involved in responding to animal hoarding cases.
- Employing necessary protection and equipment during the response.
- Consider how an animal hoarding case can impact the various agencies involved logistically, financially and legally.
- Acknowledging the ineffectiveness of classic approaches to fully resolve the problem.
- The challenges encountered if the problem isn’t addressed completely and properly or isn’t tackled until it’s too late.
- Understanding the Cycle of Abuse in a hoarding case, and why proper mental health intervention is necessary to fully address it and prevent recidivism.
- How states and jurisdictions are prosecuting animal hoarding.
- The three types of animal hoarders and the identifying characteristics and examples of each.
- Guidelines in navigating animal hoarding investigations.
- Knowing the person involved in hoarding through pre-response research.
- Different sources to gather information from about the hoarder.
- Physical signs that may serve as red flags for hoarding.
- The importance of communicating with the involved individual to build rapport and establish trust.
- Gaining entry into the residence either by getting the person to voluntarily permit entry or through a search and seizure warrant.
- Having a veterinarian as part of the investigation to provide needed care for the animals.
- Readying other resources needed during response and logistics for transporting and housing animals that will be seized.
- Securely seizing the animals and the details for documentation required for live evidence.
- Lee County’s effective Multi-Disciplinary approach to hoarding that includes mental health intervention, animal services solution, and even support for home renovations.
- A case study that ensured that both the animals and the hoarding individual were given the needed care, intervention, and chance to a better life.
- Some of the topics raised during the Q&A were about:
- Having veterinarians of different specializations available.
- Charging multiple individuals for hoarding.
- Balancing respect and safety when entering a hoarder’s residence.
- Ways to encourage reporting of potential hoarders in the community.
- Inter-jurisdiction collaborations to deal with hoarders relocating across jurisdictions or state lines.
- Lack of cooperation from other agencies.
Resources Mentioned During Webinar:
- Animal Hoarding: Structuring interdisciplinary responses to help people, animals and communities at risk
- US HUD Grant Program
- “Learning about the grant funding through HUD.” — Beth
- “I am an animal control officer and a veterinarian. I had a staff member sit in on this webinar so that he can see what occurs in some of these situations and the importance of documenting information and the types of people we deal with. No one understands what we see unless they see it for themselves.” — Karen
- “Excellent knowledge and resources in his detailed presentation. Thank you!” — Donald
- “The speaker did a great job of being informative and engaging. I appreciated that he included information about people who feed/care for cat colonies – that can easily be misunderstood.” — Jessica
- “What I “knew” was only surface info; he got down into details that I hope we can incorporate–an excellent webinar! Thanks!” — Marilyn
- “I found this webinar to be very informative as these are some of the biggest issues I have had in the past, everyone says it’s not their problem, but it’s really everyone’s problem.” — Sarah
- “The taskforce information was very good. The resources and ideas were very helpful. Thank you!” — Paula