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From 9 February 2003 Issue

"Loving Animals to Death": Some Thoughts on Animal "Collectors"
By Jim Willis - jwillis@bellatlantic.net 
The Tiergarten Sanctuary Trust

Almost every week, somewhere in America, an animal collector/hoarder situation is raided, often requiring the rescue of hundreds of animals at a time. Often the media, the authorities, and the rescue community condemns and accuses. We are so accustomed to being betrayed by our society and government that we have little tolerance for being betrayed by one of our "own."

The typical collector is most often female. That's not a sexist criticism on my part, women are frequently the most compassionate and nurturing of the genders. The typical collector believes that any life is better than any death.

As many know, I spent much of my adult life in Europe, with it's no-kill shelters, euthanasia only by veterinarians and only by lethal injection, their strict licensing, animal control and welfare laws, and national databases of convicted animal abusers and neglecters. Should I have ever met a "collector/hoarder" in that environment, I could have more easily called that person "crazy," while still giving them credit for somehow eluding the laws and authorities. I would have questioned their reasons for attempting to break laws and efforts by government that made good sense.

I cannot do that in North America. We have created a prevailing system of apathy and ignorance, where shelters and volunteer rescue efforts cannot possibly stem the tide, where government has mostly turned its back on animal welfare and control efforts, where anything "animal" is usually paid lip service and given the lowest priority, where animals often die horrible deaths, where national animal organizations can barely fund the resources they provide to "crisis" situations, and where a lot of people are making a lot of money from animals.

I get a lot of mail each week and often from rescuers who are out of hope and out of funds. They sometimes describe personal situations to me that worry me, and they ask me if I have any suggestions of help for them. I don't and I wish I did. (Occasionally, I've even received some "contemplating suicide"-type messages that make me lose sleep.) In fact, I've even angered some Rescue efforts with criticisms (largely borne of frustration), because their efforts and websites and fundraisers and other events include NO advocacy and education components. That means we will always be forced to deal with the status quo, rescuing animal by animal, with no end in sight (and where I'm often "wrong" is that's still better than nothing!). For every "accomplishment" we cheer about, some other situation or decision by government seems to take us two steps backwards.

I understand how the system in North America creates animal "collectors." I feel sorry for them. We who think we've got a handle on the situation, who have learned somehow to say "no," even when it's hard, and who care enough to ensure that every animal under our care receives the best of our efforts, are the lucky ones. We managed to stay upstream. A few threw themselves into the floodwaters and they are drowning because of their compassion.

If we could get America and Canada to "no kill" as soon as possible, if we could outlaw every method of "euthanasia" except by lethal injection (http://www.crean.com/kindness), if we could get every animal lover in the country to write a letter to an editor on an animal issue, and demand that our media report on those issues, and hold government at all levels accountable for, at the least, animal control and welfare issues - maybe we could stop creating "collectors" and maybe we could negate the need to rescue hundreds/thousands of poorly cared for animals at a time who further deplete rescue resources.

Below are some additional resources on the issues. Please join the advocacy and educational effort as soon as you can.

Thanks,
Jim
http://www.crean.com/jimwillis 

"Loving Animals to Death," a psychological profile on Animal Collectors from the Animal Protection Institute: http://www.api4animals.org/areas.asp?c=4&ID=59 

National Cruelty Investigation Schools: http://www.missouri.edu/~letiwww/animal3.htm

Go on to ACT Radio - Animal Concerns of Texas
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