(KWWL) – Cases of animal hoarding are often hard to look at with dozens of animals living in poor conditions that are unsuitable for anyone. We often report on how those animals recover but we wanted to look at it from another perspective.
“Some individuals who are hoarders have a mental illness,” said Kristi Shannon who trains people on the signs of elder abuse at the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Agin.
Iowa has seen a number of animal hoarding cases this summer which beg the question, whether to prosecute the person or treat them for a mental illness?
More than one law enforcement agency has said it’s all circumstantial, that no one case is the same.
Shannon says there are a number of warning signs that could indicate a hoarding situation:
- SUDDEN CHANGE IN APPEARANCE
- SUDDEN CHANGE IN HYGIENE
- ACCUMULATION OF ITEMS, “CLUTTER”
- UNWILLING TO HAVE GUESTS
- SUDDEN INCREASE IN PETS
Shannon says people will often choose pets because they’re something they can touch.
“Cause they’ll show affection back to them, it’s replacing what they’ve lost. As individuals age, unfortunately, they do go through more losses in their life, abilities, loved ones, family members, friends,” said Shannon.
For Shannon, there’s no easy fix.
“If you just go in there and throw out an item, you could then spiral their emotional health down. So, you gotta start where it is and find out what their next step will be, and work side by side with them. We always make sure we’re very person-centred in doing that,” said Shannon.
The agency works mostly on a voluntary basis but they do have an initiative with police that hopes to help those elders that police often respond to, whether its a hoarding situation or simply a fall.
Shannon says she gets it, people in the midwest are proud. However, just an hour of help a day can keep things from getting out of hand.
Iowa does not have a law that specifically mentions animal hoarding, but there is one for animal neglect as well as animal torture. It’s mandatory that a person undergo a mental health evaluation for the charge of animal torture but not for animal neglect.
If you are or know an elder dealing with a difficult situation, you can reach the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging at 800 779 8707. The agency provides services on a contribution basis, meaning that they work with the patient as to what they are able to pay.