Monday, February 28, 2011

Health effects on humans with animal hoarding

Health effects on humans

Animal hoarding also causes many health problems for the individuals involved. Hoarders, by definition, fail to correct deteriorating sanitary conditions of their living spaces, and this gives rise to several health risks for those living in and around hoarding residences.[3] Animal hoarding is at the root of a string of human health problems including horrendous sanitation, fire hazards, zoonotic diseases, envenomations, and neglect of oneself and dependents.

[edit] Sanitation concerns

Poor sanitation practices, a general characteristic of hoarding households, poses numerous health risks to inhabitants, both animal and human. In typical hoarding residences, animal waste is found coating interior surfaces, including beds, countertops, and cupboards.[15] In one case, floors and other surfaces were found to be covered in a six-inch layer of feces and garbage.[3]
In addition to severe odors which may pose a nuisance to neighbors, animal waste poses serious health risks in both the spread of parasites and the presence of noxious ammonia levels.[13] OSHA, the United States agency regulating air quality standards in work-related environments, has identified an ammonia level of 300 parts per million as life-threatening for humans;[11] in many hoarding cases the atmospheric ammonia level in the housing space approaches this number,[14] requiring the use of protective clothing and breathing apparati during inspections or interventions.[15] In an extreme case, the ammonia level in the hoarder’s house was 152 parts per million, even after ventilation.[11]
The presence of animal waste also prevents sanitary means of food storage and preparation, which puts residents at particular risk of contracting food-related illnesses and parasites.[15] Insect and rodent infestation can both follow and worsen hoarding conditions, and it can potentially spread to the surrounding environment including nearby buildings.[14] In one case, an elementary school had to be shut down due to a flea infestation that had spread from a nearby dog hoarder residence.[15]
Hoarders are frequently found to collect large numbers of inanimate objects in addition to animals,[12] giving rise to extreme clutter as well. Hoarded objects can include newspapers, trash, clothing, and food; and the clutter inhibits normal movement around the house, hampering household maintenance and sanitary food preparation; heightening risks of accidents and contributing to the overall level of squalor.[12] A lack of functioning utilities, such as toilets, sinks, electricity, or proper heating (often for non-payment of bills, a common theme in cluttering, though poor maintenance may also be a cause) further exacerbates the problem.[15] Fire hazards comprise yet another health issue tied to poor sanitation;[15] the clutter found in many hoarding households prevents workable fire escape plans and serves as a possible fuel when located close to heat sources. The risk is amplified when hoarders, due to inoperative normal heating systems, seek alternate heating methods such as fire places, stoves, or kerosene heaters.[15][16]

[edit] Zoonotic diseases

Another human health issue caused by animal hoarding is the risk of zoonotic diseases. Defined as "human diseases acquired from or transmitted to any other vertebrate animal,"[17] zoonotic diseases can often be lethal and in all cases constitute a serious public health concern. Examples of well-known zoonotic diseases include bubonic plague, influenza, and rabies.[18] Common domesticated animals constitute a large portion of animals carrying zoonoses,[17] and as a result, humans involved in animal hoarding situations are at particular risk of contracting disease.[12] Zoonoses that may arise in hoarding situations—through means such as dog, cat, or rat bites—include rabies, salmonellosis, catscratch fever, hookworm, and ringworm.[19] One zoonosis of special concern is toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted to humans through cat feces or badly prepared meat, and is known to cause severe birth defects or stillbirth in the case of infected pregnant women.[20] The risk of zoonotic diseases is amplified by the possibility of community epidemics. Overall, zoonotic diseases constitute a major human health issue related to animal hoarding.

[edit] Self-neglect and child/elder abuse

Main article: Diogenes syndrome
The problems of self-neglect and elder and child abuse are also health problems associated with animal hoarding. Self-neglect can be defined as "the inability to provide for oneself the goods or services to meet basic needs," and has been shown to be an "independent risk factor for death".[21] While self-neglect is a condition generally associated with the elderly, animal hoarders of any age can and do suffer from it.[15] This is demonstrated by the fact that hoarders’ lifestyles often match the degenerate sanitary conditions that surround them. Child and elder abuse arise when dependents are living with the hoarder. According to one study, dependents lived with the hoarder in over half of the cases.[11] As with his or her animals, the hoarder often fails to provide adequate care for dependents both young and old, who suffer from a lack of basic necessities as well as the health problems caused by unsanitary conditions.[12] In one case, two children of a couple hoarding 58 cats and other animals were forced to repeat kindergarten and first grade because of excessive absence due to respiratory infections.[15] Self-neglect and neglect of dependents make up a major human health concern of animal hoarding.

[edit] Mental health issues

Though it has not been firmly linked to any specific psychological disorder, evidence suggests that there is "a strong mental health component" in animal hoarding.[16] Models that have been projected to explain animal hoarding include delusional disorder, attachment disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, zoophilia, dementia, and addiction.[22] Direct evidence for most is lacking, however.[15]
  1. ^ Davis, Susan; Flaherty (illus), Jake (2002). "Prosecuting Animal Hoarders is like Herding Cats". California Lawyer (September): 26, 28, 29, 67. http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/pubs/herdingcats.pdf 
  2. ^ Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) (2004). "Commonly asked questions about hoarding". http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/abthoard.htm. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Patronek, Gary J. "Animal hoarding: its roots and recognition." Veterinary Medicine 101.8 (2006): 520.
  4. ^ a b Berry, Colin, M.S., Gary Patronek, V.M.D., Ph.D., and Randall Lockwood, Ph.D.. "Long-Term Outcomes in Animal Hoarding Cases" (PDF). http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/pubs/berry.pdf. 
  5. ^ "Mental health issues and animal hoarding". http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/mental.htm. 
  6. ^ a b [1],ALDF v. Woodley
  7. ^ Barrett, Barbara (April 21, 2005). "Case is among biggest ever.". http://www.pet-abuse.com/cases/4377/NC/US/1. 
  8. ^ [2], O Magazine: Operation Rescue
  9. ^ "NPR: N.C. Law Allows Group to Sue over Alleged Dog Abuse". http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4664397. 
  10. ^ "Health: Pet hoarders may need help". BBC News. 1999-06-22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/375117.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-01. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Berry, Colin, Gary Patronek, and Randy Lockwood. "Long-term outcomes in animal hoarding cases." Animal Law 11 (2005): 167-194.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Patronek, Gary. "Hoarding of animals: an under-recognized problem in a difficult to study population." Public Health Reports (Hyattsville) 114.1 (1999-02): 81-88.
  13. ^ a b c d "The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC)". Tufts University. http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/. Retrieved 2007-12-07. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Patronek, Gary (18 November 2007). "Large scale removal and rescue of animals" (pdf). Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium. Tufts University. http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/pubs/removeresc.pdf. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Arluke, Arnie; et al. (2002-05). "Health Implications of Animal Hoarding". Health & Social Work 27 (2): 125. 
  16. ^ a b c Patronek, Gary. "The Problem of Animal Hoarding." Animal Law May/June 2001: 6-9, 19.
  17. ^ a b "animal disease." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 8 Dec. 2007 <http://search.eb.com/eb/article-63292>.
  18. ^ Last, Ed. John M. (2007). "zoonosis". A Dictionary of Public Health: Oxford Reference Online (Oxford University Press) 
  19. ^ John M. Last "animals as carriers of disease" The Oxford Companion to Medicine. Stephen Lock, John M. Last, and George Dunea. Oxford University Press 2001. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Brigham Young University (BYU). 8 December 2007.
  20. ^ "toxoplasmosis" A Dictionary of Public Health. Ed. John M. Last, Oxford University Press, 2007. Oxford Reference Online. Brigham Young University. 8 December 2007.
  21. ^ Dyer, Carmel Bitondo, et al. "Self-Neglect Among the Elderly: A Model Based on More Than 500 Patients Seen by a Geriatric Medicine Team." American Journal of Public Health. 97 (2007-09): 1671.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g Frost, Randy (2000). "People Who Hoard Animals". Psychiatric Times 17 (4). http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/54031?pageNumber=1. 

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