Saskatchewan

Animal hoarding a mental illness which needs treatment, sociologist says

Animal hoarders are often motivated by a desire to rescue an animal or provide care for it, even when they're doing the opposite, according to an assistant professor who has studied the subject.

Christiana Bratiotis will be speaking in Regina on animal hoarding next month

Dozer had matted fur when he was seized from a property in Milk River, Alta. (Submitted by Deanna Thompson )

Animal hoarders are often motivated by a desire to rescue an animal or provide care for it, even when they're doing the opposite, according to an assistant professor who has studied the subject.

There will be a one-day workshop on animal hoarding at Queensbury Convention Centre in Regina. Christiana Bratiotis is one of the featured speakers. She is a sociologist, who got her doctorate at Boston University where she went on to lead a Hoarding Research project. She's now an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia . 8:41

Christiana Bratiotis, who works at the University of British Columbia, told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition that far more is known about people who hoard objects compared to the lesser known animal hoarders, because people who hoard animals rarely volunteer due to stigma or the potential for criminal charges.

"Despite the fact that they may not be able to provide good veterinary care or proper nutrition, or that too many animals are living in too small of a space — because these people become overwhelmed as caregivers they will defend their position almost to the point of delusional belief," she said on Tuesday.

Bratiotis will be speaking in Regina on June 12 at the Queenbury Convention Centre during a workshop about better understanding animal hoarders. The sociologist was the head of a research project on animal hoarders during her time at Boston University.

"We believe that people who hoard animals begin their primary attachments with animals in childhood," she said.

"They tell us that their early attachments were not with parents or other caregivers, but instead with the animals. They describe their own homes often as places of chaos that were uncomfortable until the animals provide these strong relationships, and early and reliable ones at that."

People then begin to accumulate animals over decades, if left unchecked, and eventually become overwhelmed. Their attachment to the animal would begin to increase at the expense of relationships with other people, Bratiotis said.

She said animal hoarding is an illness, as there is a pathology driving that behaviour, but that means there is also treatment available.

"If we can help the people, doing the [caring for the] animals to get the treatment they need to be better, of course the animals will be safer and live in better conditions."

With files from CBC Radio's The Morning Edition

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