Animals play an important role in our lives, and the current pandemic has madetheir roles more significant. They have warmed our laps, photo bombed videoconferences, joined us on endless walks and have simply sat with us.

While we humans have been staying apart, I have seen more of the people andpets in my neighbourhood out for their daily exercise. This has made me moreconscious of all the different animals that happily live in our community.However for some, a love of animals can turn into an unsustainable andoverwhelming situation.

Animal hoarding is a complex issue that is not often discussed. Its far-reaching effects encompasses mental health issues, animal welfare issues andhealth and hygiene concerns. Animals that are ‘collected’ by hoarders mayinclude dogs or cats but can extend beyond this.

Sometimes it is associated with a traumatic event or may relate to otherunderlying mental health issues. It is more common in women and higher in theelderly. Importantly, we know the negative impact on the animal can beenormous.

Recently, at Lort Smith, we helped out a hoarder who has 13 undesexed andunvaccinated cats. Many were in very poor health, including several who hascontracted cat flu and feline parvo virus. Sadly some didn’t survive.

It can be hard for someone to recognise that their love of animals has gonetoo far. When a person is unable to care for their animals, when the animalsare not in good health, are under fed, not de-sexed, unvaccinated or haveother health issues, hoarding may be an issue.

Hoarders all look different, they may not be living in a deteriorated home,but they are more than likely isolated. More often, hoarders insist they aredoing the right thing, even when animals are showing signs of distress andillness.

It can be difficult for animal hoarders to accept help. They genuinely believethey are caring for their animals and may be concerned about what will happento them if they are surrendered. They need to know help is available, rightnow.

There are many animal welfare organisations that work with local government toprovide genuine tailored solutions. At Lort Smith, when working with peoplefacing hoarding issues, we help provide necessary medical and welfare carethat helps an unmanageable situation become manageable.

Sometimes this means desexing animals that may remain in the house and takingon surrendered animals, a few at a time, until a manageable number is reached.The surrendered animals are found new homes and the remaining animals receivethe care and attention they need.

Help is available, and always has been with organisations like Lort Smith.Like us, there are a number of animal welfare organisations that have a nojudgement policy and stand by their committed to never euthanaise a rehomableanimal.

However, when animals are poorly socialised and living in unhealthyenvironments, the path to rehabilitation is more difficult. In some situationsthe outcomes might not be as positive as it could be, had help been soughtearlier.

Not everyone with multiple animals is a hoarder, but if you think someone isstruggling to care for their animals it may be time to offer some help.Speaking to your local council is often the first step.

Fiona Webster is the CEO of Lort Smith.

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