Animal hoarding is a complex issue…and it’s on the rise

The other night, I came across a disturbing TV programme which dealt with compulsive hoarding, a disorder which affects many people.

This programme reminded me of two articles I recently read, one of which reported how Dublin Fire Brigade had been called upon to ‘rescue a pensioner’ who had spent ‘14 hours on the floor after becoming trapped in his own home because of hoarding’. The poor man.

The second described the jailing of an ‘84-year-old woman’ (living in the midlands), ‘for 10 months after she was convicted on two counts of animal cruelty’ on foot of ISPCA inspectors discovering a number of dogs which were described as being ‘covered in faeces and urine’ at her home. The poor dogs!

The ‘hoarding’ article, reported by, described how this individual had ‘been charged with this (animal cruelty offence), on two previous occasions, which had come with a court order prohibiting her from ever owning any animal again’. This person has been bailed pending appeal.

For someone like me, i.e. a self-confessed ‘neat freak’, hoarding is a phenomenon I fail to understand.

However, as a former animal welfare officer, animal hoarding, (or as we called it, the Noah Syndrome), was a heartbreaking situation I would have dealt with on a regular basis. The call would come from either An Garda Síochána, the local authority, or a concerned member of the public who’d contact us (the Dublin SPCA), asking us to investigate and deal with incidents so disturbing, I cannot describe them in a family publication.

As someone who adores animals, the sights and the situations I came across very nearly broke me. I can tell you readers it took every ounce of my strength to keep my big mouth shut when calling at these homes, farms and businesses; but keep it shut I did. You see, I knew it was very likely the individual inflicting the pain and suffering on these poor innocent animals was possibly mentally ill.

I knew they’d somehow managed to accumulate a very large number of animals, usually cats, dogs, birds and guinea pigs, etc., failing to provide these poor creatures with even the most basic in food, sanitation or veterinary care. As you can imagine, due to the very nature of the findings, and the concentration of animal waste and sometimes human waste – both of which would carry potential diseases, not to mention noxious odours – myself and my fellow officers had to don full PPE gear.

For the sake of decency, I won’t go into any further detail other than to add that hoarding not only involves a very personal human mental health issue, it also greatly impacts on the local community and on the  environment. However – and I’m being honest here – it was the animals who were my concern, they were the ones I had compassion for, not the hoarder who had caused their immeasurable suffering.

When we rescued and removed these pets to safety, we also had to set up a chain of custody, always being mindful not to break it during the animals’ transfer from their private hell to medical care, treatment and rehousing at the shelter.

I have, with the help of former colleagues, and An Garda Síochána, managed to successfully make many cases against individuals who’ve caused immeasurable pain and inflicted horrific suffering on animals. I’ve appeared as an expert witness at their trials, and, where the court enforced a ban, prohibiting these cruel perpetrators from ever again owning an animal, many of them, (like that alleged 84-year-old abuser), disgracefully went on to reoffend.

Why? Well folks, in cases I personally investigated, I believe the two common denominators I identified were the perpetrator’s total denial and complete lack of understanding regarding the pain and suffering they’d inflicted upon these poor creatures, and of the crises they’d caused. Two, they very conveniently viewed themselves as ‘rescuers’, nay ‘saviours’. I’m sure any reputable psychologist will disagree with me, but, given what I had to deal with, I viewed them as narcissistic abusers!

Well done to the ISPCA animal welfare officers and to An Garda Síochána who investigated and removed these poor suffering dogs from this reoffender. Also, a big thank you to Judge Desmond Zaidan who, according to the report, cautioned this woman that her ‘age is not a bar from going to prison’. Huge respect for your Honour; I wish you’d presided over the cases I dealt with!


It could happen to anyone…

There has been ‘nearly a 300 percent’ rise in the number of calls to the National Poisons Centre at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin regarding children accidentally drinking the liquid contained in reed diffusers. For anyone unfamiliar with reed diffusers, these are popular home fragrance products which, when activated, emit a continuous scent throughout the room.

Commenting on how scary this has got to be for any parent, I self-righteously told hubby how, when my girls were small, I would’ve established a safety mechanism in our home to prevent them consuming anything which wasn’t safe! Still on my high horse, I added how it was pretty silly of any kid to guzzle down this liquid, saying I’d have thought the perfumed aroma would’ve alerted them that it wasn’t their average drop of Ribena! Hubby laughed and quickly reminded me about an incident which occurred during our honeymoon in Lanzarote.

Waiting on our meal at a restaurant, and, being absolutely famished (and a tad under the influence of alcohol), I reached into a bowl of crunchy Bombay mix sitting on our table. Helping myself to a generous handful, I munched on it hungrily before washing it down with a glass of wine. When the waiter, (who was pretty rude), finally arrived with our starters, I decided to remark how the chef’s Bombay mix was not only “stale”, it needed a touch more salt.

Turning white with shock, the waiter rolled his eyes into the back of his head, stood up to his full height, and, in a voice loud enough for the entire restaurant to hear, announced… “That was not Bombay mix madam; you’ve just consumed an entire bowl of pot pourri”. Oops!


Free contraception scheme should include HRT

As of last week, women between the ages of 17 and 25 years can source contraception/birth control free of charge from doctors, primary care centres and pharmacists who’ve signed up to the new scheme. Fantastic news!

What isn’t fantastic news however is that, (at the time of writing), it was reported only one hundred GPs had ‘inquired’ – as in hadn’t yet signed up – about this initiative. How very disappointing, especially given they’ll receive a €55 fee per consultation.

While this scheme comes at a cost of €26 million for a full year to us, the taxpayer, (making it ‘one of the most expensive measures’ our Government has introduced), I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I’d like to see this initiative extended to the over-25s. In fact,  why stop there, why not provide HRT free to  menopausal women?

I do know that contraceptive meds and devices, (including emergency contraception), and medical services, are free to medical card holders, as is HRT, with the Government charging a nominal fee per item; but what about those hard-pressed women who don’t qualify for this service?

Irish mammies are real-life superheroes, always placing themselves last on the list of their family’s priorities, therefore, by not extending the age cohort to the over-25s and menopausal women, our Government isn’t just discriminating against them, it’s adding to their financial burdens during a time when the cost of living is sky-rocketing.