Animal hoarding: an unaddressed problem in the Valley - WSMV News 4

Animal hoarding: an unaddressed problem in the Valley

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A Maricopa County Animal Shelter received 37 new dogs in one day, in one trip - all of them covered in fleas and some possibly carrying diseases.

All of them were living under the same roof.

"We get reports of hoarding on a daily basis," Chris West of the Arizona Humane Society said.

In some cases, the humane society will seize more than 100 animals from a single home. In this case, the dogs were not seized but were discovered after their owner died, according to Melissa Gable of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.

"These dogs, if they were healthy, physically and mentally, they'd be great," Gable said. "They would get adopted in two seconds, but because of their situation, now they're not."

The situation is animal hoarding.

"It is truly a mental issue," West said. "It's a deficiency."

This deficiency has just recently been recognized as a mental disorder. West and animal control officers are usually the first to address the problem.

According to West, hoarders often grow attached to their items, and the "things" they're hoarding have sentimental value to them. However, when hoarding affects the lives of animals, the humane society and law enforcement step in.

"We'll go out and investigate it and hopefully get the individual some help," West said. "At least get the animals some help."

For 28 of the 37 dogs left at the Maricopa County Shelter in Mesa, they were put on a "kill list" and were scheduled to be euthanized Friday morning. The shelter changed the euthanasia date to Monday after an outcry from local rescue groups trying to save the dogs.

Gable says the shelter cannot afford the vet bill, and many of the dogs are considered "unadoptable" due to their appeal to potential owners. Gable says if the animals were taken care of, they would have found good homes in no time.

As for animal hoarders, mental help is rare. According to the Arizona Hoarding Task Force, hoarding is unlike many other mental disorders. Hoarders cannot be forced to get mental help and often require family intervention.

A founder of the Arizona Hoarding Task Force says Arizona lawmakers can help by introducing legislation that addresses hoarding more clearly. Current laws actually protect the animals more than prevent hoarders from living that lifestyle: If an animal is considered to be endangered due to its living environment, the humane society can ask law enforcement to remove the animal(s).

If you suspect animals are endangered by a hoarding situation, contact the Arizona Humane Society.

For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook and Twitter.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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