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MARY JO NAGY | Pets Good intentions, bad situations



Published: Sun, July 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Once again we are reading news stories about people in the Youngstown area who have 20 or 30 or more animals in their homes that are neglected, starving and living in terrible conditions. The animals are usually so ill that they have to be euthanized. This scenario appears to happen much too often. We can't imagine how these situations occur?

These people, all too often, begin with the best of intentions, trying to save stray dogs and cats. They usually do not understand nor can they afford basic veterinary care for the animals. They quickly become overwhelmed with the care and expense.

The problem

The situation for the animals deteriorates to a fate worse than death. These people have become "collectors."

Many collectors believe that animals are better off alive regardless of their miserable existence than to be euthanized. The story is frequently repeated; collectors keep dogs, cats, wildlife and livestock in small, cramped, filthy cages or stalls without ventilation and the ability to exercise.

Many times they go days without food and water. They live in their own feces with no place to lie down. The animals suffer terribly.

How does a person become a collector?

Collectors say they love animals, however, they do not care for them responsibly. Collectors are unable to bear the thought of euthanasia, so they hoard vast numbers of animals to be "saved" only to suffer from starvation, illness and lack of human companionship. Collectors cannot afford the much-needed spaying and neutering, let alone routine veterinary care, so their collections grow.

The neighbors finally complain of the noise, stench and filth. At that time, most of the animals need to be euthanized, which is what the collector was trying to avoid in the first place.

Isolation and illness

Many collectors allow the animals to take over their homes and lives so completely that they lose contact with friends and family. They find themselves isolated. Some suffer from mental illness. Case studies report that animal collectors' behaviors often parallel that of substance abusers.

Denial

The collector also displays an abnormal fear of death and a denial of death as a part of the life cycle.

Some have even gone to the extent of keeping dead animals in the freezer or cupboards.

They see themselves as the only person who can help animals, and they distrust other people or organizations that offer assistance. Collectors usually refuse to part with their animals even when they can be adopted to good homes.

Unaware supporters

Unfortunately, the public often supports the collectors' addictions with sympathy, money and more animals because it sounds wonderful to "save" animals from being killed. The collector takes drop-offs and becomes known as the "cat" or "dog person" of the neighborhood.

When a collector claims he/she is saving animals, he/she often receives touching stories on TV or in the local newspaper. Rarely are stories followed with an update to see what kind of treatment the animals really receive.

Solutions

What should you do to stop collectors?

UCall your local humane officer if you suspect neglect, abuse or someone hoarding large numbers of animals.

UIf you can't keep your own pet, take it to the pound or local animal shelter.

UDo not send money to anyone claiming that they are "rescuing" animals without investigating their organization.

USpay and neuter your pet to reduce unwanted animals.

UInvestigate any shelter, humane group or 'rescuers' before you turn a vulnerable animal over to them. Never accept an excuse for not being allowed to tour a facility or a home. Ask questions about animal care and adoption policies.

UNever place a "free to good home" ad. You become ideal prey for those persons seeking bait animals for fighting dogs or guard dogs that are chained and neglected. Also, people known as "bunchers" will promise you a good home then sell your animal to a laboratory for a profit.

UVolunteer at your local humane society or shelter so you have a better understanding of animal problems and community solutions.

XMary Jo Nagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.




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