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Suspected animal hoarding should always be reported

Animal Welfare Department officers found this trailer overrun by cats in 2011, and caught 12 of them. The home was full of debris and stank of ammonia from cat urine, according to the city’s Nuisance Abatement Team. (Courtesy of the City of Albuquerque)

Animal Welfare Department officers found this trailer overrun by cats in 2011, and caught 12 of them. The home was full of debris and stank of ammonia from cat urine, according to the city’s Nuisance Abatement Team. (Courtesy of the City of Albuquerque)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s much that’s difficult yet typical about animal hoarding cases, as Alan Edmonds, cruelty case manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico, well knows.

“I see it as a serious problem across the state and really, across the country,” he says. “It’s a really sad situation for the animals, it’s a sad situation for the people involved, it’s a deeply ingrained behavior that maybe cannot be changed.”

Ninety percent who are caught will return to hoarding practices, Edmonds says, without some type of intervention, counseling and followup.

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Hoarders, he says, tend to be educated, fairly intelligent and solitary.

People with a hoarding disorder often believe they’re doing the right thing by “saving” animals. But on some level they know they’re not, because they’re very secretive. Often, what gives them away is the smell.

They’re manipulative, telling others what they want to hear. If authorities step in, for example, they might admit that they’ve acquired more animals than they can properly care for, promise to reduce the numbers and then start back up again.

They wear, Edmonds says, rose-colored glasses and blinders at the same time, such as the hoarder who insisted a goat was fine despite a very obvious compound leg fracture.

Someone with a hoarding disorder is not going to stop themselves from acquiring animals once they have a reasonable number of them. Care deteriorates. If you know someone who is having trouble keeping litter boxes empty and is reaching out to others to pay for pet food, he or she could be hoarding.

Sometimes an animal sanctuary, a rescue, evolves into a hoarding situation, such as one in Chaparral, where in January 2014 a case involving 208 dogs resulted in 156 charges of misdemeanor animal cruelty. That case has yet to be tried, pending a psychological evaluation ordered by the court.

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“A lot are very, very crafty and will go to great lengths to hide the situation,” Edmonds says. A hoarder might go without electricity or plumbing or other necessities if it means calling someone for repairs.

If you suspect hoarding, report it. Take photos if possible.

If you suspect hoarding by someone you know, start a conversation and see if what the person says matches with what you see, hear or smell.

“Do the explanations make sense?”

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