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Animal hoarding is a serious public health issue that encompasses human welfare, environmental health, animal welfare, and property concerns, particularly in a city like New York, where vertical living is the norm.  As more cases are uncovered throughout the country, a model intervention involves a coordinated community response to address the welfare of the person, the animals, and the environment.  Due to the cost associated with a large intervention and the lack of motivation of the hoarder to seek help or restitution, many animal hoarding cases go unaddressed until conditions fully deteriorate and the legal system intervenes.  Frontline social workers making home visits may discover these situations first, and with an understanding of the complexity of these situations, they can work to coordinate successful responses. Because animal hoarding is linked to a very high recidivism rate, it is important to address each situation early and comprehensively:  addressing the behavior and hoarding conditions and also incorporating a plan that monitors each situation to ensure compliance long after an intervention occurs. Communities throughout the country have developed Hoarding Task Forces that engage multiple disciplines, including the law, human welfare, animal welfare, environmental health, and safety.  Specific goals to this type of intervention include:

  • An agreed-upon plan among agencies that is well communicated among partners

  • Agreed-upon goals and a timeline for interventions
  • Coordination of responders in consideration of the environment, safety, and human and animal welfare
  • Willingness to address the immediate situation and continue services to address long-term safety and possible recidivism

In New York City, the agencies and organizations that could benefit from a collaborative and coordinated community response are often independent of each other. These include the New York Police Department (NYPD), New York Fire Department (NYFD), Adult Protective Services, Department for the Aging, Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Buildings, community boards throughout the city, the New York City Housing Authority, and the Office of Emergency Management. In addition, there are a number of social service agencies (many with City contracts) that address human welfare of the elderly and others at-risk. Interventions include:

  • Preventive strategies, such as stopping animal reproduction through spay/neuter, improving the environment through cleaning, and referring additional supportive services to monitor the conditions and offer assistance
  • Legal intervention strategies, such as assessing for cause for legal intervention (animal cruelty/neglect, eviction, guardianship, etc.) and animal removal by AC&C and/or private animal welfare groups
  • Emergency intervention strategies, such as a coordinated response to remove the individual(s) and animals because of health/public health issues

The model intervention addresses the behavior, the conditions, the community impact, and recidivism. As more agencies commit to addressing these concerns, there is a better chance for a successful response.

Resources:

  • Animal Care & Control of NYC (AC&C): dial 3-1-1

  • Tufts Hoarding Research Consortium: http://vet.tufts.edu/hoarding/

  • Adult Protective Services: dial 3-1-1
  • New York Police Department: dial 3-1-1
  • New York Fire Department: dial 3-1-1

  • ASPCA: dial (212) 876-7700