raid on animal hoarders|
Forty reptiles including crocodiles
and turtles, living in appalling conditions, a terrible stench and the bodies
of another 80 animals.
This was the disturbing scene that met RSPCA inspectors
when they visited a house near Wisbech.
The animals' owners Eric and Janice
Dowers appeared in court in 2004 and pleaded guilty to cruelty.
sent to prison for 35 days and banned from keeping animals for the rest of their
Cases like this are not uncommon.
Now new research from America
suggests in many cases offenders can't help what they're doing and could be suffering
from an obsessive disorder.
They feel compelled to collect animals and
get to a point where they just can't cope.
is now trying to understand why cases like this happen in the first place.
Psychologist Gary Petrone believes that the problem
can often be traced back to childhood trauma.
He also believes that prosecuting
owners rarely solves the underlying problem and questions whether taking people's
animals away is the whole answer:
"There's a strong compulsive
element. Until you find out what is driving the behaviour you cant help that person.
We now recognised that with drinking etc - you can't just stop that person
- if you just get rid of the animals, it wont solve the problem. The animals are
the symptom not the problem." Gary Petrone.
not everyone who keeps lots of animals lets them suffer.
Common characteristics of animal hoarding include:
* More than the typical
number of companion animals.
* An inability to provide minimal standards
of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care.
* Animal neglect
can result in starvation, illness, and death to the animal.
of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on
Source: The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium
Elizabeth Clayton from Norwich started collecting rats
20 years ago, after her daughter brought two home.
They bred and soon found
themselves with dozens more.
They were then joined by others, rescued from
people who couldn't look after their animals.
The RSPCA regularly visit
and are happy with the condition of the rats.
Although the rats are very
well looked after, Elizabeth has been advised it's probably not a good idea to
take any more.
Despite having so many animals she doesn't think she's suffering
from any kind of compulsive disorder.
Petrone agrees that not everyone who has large numbers of animals has a problem:
it becomes a problem is when one fails to see that behaviour is harming you or
While research continues, the sad reality
is that some animals will continue to suffer.
Prosecuting their owners
is at the moment the only weapon law enforcement agencies have.
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