A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

May 23, 2010

Not Everyone With Too Many Pets is a Hoarder.

Not everyone with too many pets is a hoarder. Recently we have been asked to assist two elderly citizens whose raison d'etre was to care for neighborhood pets but felt they could no longer do so properly. One had almost 200 cats, and one had 30. The greek chorus chanted "hoarder" but in neither case was that so.

A hoarder suffers from an actual disorder where they cannot stop themselves from collecting everything (not just animals) and, most important, are oblivious to the fact that they are failing to care for themselves and the animals. Psychiatric experts are not sure if the condition is a clinical compulsive disorder(OCD), an object displacement problem or an addiction.  The disorder requires constant treatment and support which never happens.They are isolated, delusional and always re-offend after an intervention. As someone who has entered more hoarding dwellings than anyone should ever have to -I know it when I see it - and - when I do not.

The instances I mentioned above are different. In those cases, the desire was to care for animals that nobody wanted, which they did for decades. Funds were expended on food, supplies and veterinary bills to achieve their goals. When they realized that they no longer had the stamina (one was 87, the other 79) and the income to do so properly, they called for help. Managing large, unstable populations requires numerous trips to the veterinarian (sterilizations, medical treatments etc), constant cleaning, managing squabbles and relentless vigilance. In both cases, they were quite successful and the animals were in good condition. Recognizing they were finding it difficult to continue, and with the support of their families they made the decision to "retire" rather than allow the quality of care to decline. The ability to realize that, and to believe that someone else is capable of loving those pets is what differentiates them from the basic hoarder.

However, we can all help people like this, help identify and stop hoarders who are harming animals, and  help each other build better communities by doing a few simple things. Do not dump animals that are yours or that you find on these rescuers in your neighborhoods as you do not know if they are hoarders or not. It is not only illegal to do so in California but it is the lazy course of action as it is often easier than going to a legitimate animal shelter. If you are aware of someone who you suspect might be a hoarder or is simply becoming overwhelmed - call your spca or adult protective services and ask that the situation be assessed. It is in the best interests of us all to do so. The person can be helped, the animals can be placed,  and the neighborhood can be spared the consequences of an out of control animal problem such as insects, rodents, stench, diseases (both zoonotic and to other pets), as well as the heartbreak of letting a fellow citizen down.

It can be done - let's make it so.

May 7, 2010

Stop rescission of import ban on frogs & turtles - make some noise!

The Fish & Game Commission, after a decade of asking, finally banned the importation of millions of live frogs and turtles for sale in live animal markets. Notwithstanding the animal cruelty issues, these non-native species find their way into our ecosystems, pet shops, (those not fit to eat) swap meets, ponds and local waters. The result is they destroy native species, introduce new diseases and destroy the balance or our native wildlife. Fish & Game is mandated to protect our native wildlife. Capturing them in other states depletes species and affects the ecosystems there as well.

Some of your elected representatives (listed below) have sent a letter asking Fish & Game asking them to rescind the ban. If they don't speak for you  or represent your interests - Make some noise. The following are the emails for those legislators and the Dept. of Fish & Game Commission.  Please contact them before May 20th, the date of the rehearing.


May 2, 2010

Shame on LA City

I can't help thinking that it has become a trend to focus us on the evils of Wall Street so we don't see the overspending, mismanagement and the wasting of assets brought about by our own city officials. Sure - narcissistic greed combined with an ethical void in the investment sector produced a disaster of monumental proportions, but - using that to cover up and misdirect our attention away from bad fiscal management in the cities and states compounds the insult, and averts our gaze from those who should face the consequences.

The City of Los Angeles is a good example. It is in a dire financial situation. Who was minding the store? The officials admit overspending and ask for sacrifices. Heads of departments say they could have managed better and promise to do so later. They want to hide behind Goldman Sachs. Yet they have the gall to ask our pets to suffer and to die for their malfeasance. They will cut the animal control budget leaving no "later" for our pets.

Animal control is never a priority. No one wants to see this issue and our pets can't complain. They suffer, ache, bleed and love us anyway. And we let them die. Cutting this budget and the way they propose to cut it does not augur well for our future, nor should it inspire confidence in our leaders. They propose to close a facility used for very sick animals and those that need to be held for reasons not purely stray control - like court cases or police action. Those animals will take up cage space needed by those looking for homes. And the very the sick? Do they have no chance at all or are they housed with, and therefore infect the rest of the population? They propose to cut 8 animal control officers - they are the revenue generators of the department! Brilliant. They propose to cut 14 animal care technicians and 3 veterinary technicians which would suggest that the animals will not receive the care and comfort needed to stay healthy and strong. There's more - but the end result is not only more euthanasia, but more over crowding and suffering before they die. Even if you believe cuts are necessary - which i am not saying- is this the best and the most intelligent way to do it?

I suggest, that rather than asking our pets to contribute their lives to alleviate the budget crisis - we ask those officials who mismanaged and caused the crisis to pay with their jobs. Budget solved!