By Shane and Sia Barbi on The Kitty Liberation Front
In reading e-mails about hoarding I could not resist in commenting.
My sis and I are known for our recovery from bulimia, and my mom is a top therapist for alcoholics and addicts. I have learned to recognize addictive behavior, not by their symptoms of excess weight or being drunk, but instead by their character defects: control issues, being a victim, denial, etc.
Hoarding is a mental illness, just like bulimia, and the addiction that follows hoarding allows us to add the "ism" to rescue. In fact, I coined the word hoarding into "rescuism", to force people to view hoarding as mental addiction and disease. You cannot judge or get angry at someone mentally ill. However, just as we should not judge a "drunk", you still can stop the drunk from driving, when it involves other living creatures. I believe this should hold true with a hoarder and rescuism. Their illness makes them unfit to see their sickness and unfit to run a shelter with dependent living creatures. Furthermore, you cannot tell a drunk they are drunk. Telling a mentally ill person they are a hoarder, will only make them defend themselves or defend other fellow hoarders.
At one time I felt I could be a potential hoarder, because I really want to save any animal that comes into my life. Nevertheless, a true hoarder is no more a savior than a mother who harms her child. Both the sick mother and the hoarder love to be needed, but that is where the love ends. I worked at a rescue where I observed hoarders getting high or loaded with the act of "rescuing", (that I now call rescuism). The hoarders whole life is defined through just rescuing. But unlike rescuing, these hoarders are actually sociopaths when it came to caring for the animals. Hoarders are addicted to chaos and like an abusive relationship, they do not know what a healthy environment is. Hoarders don't rescue animals, they actually kidnap them, and hold them hostage in unlivable conditions. This hoarding behavior is exemplified in the old movie, "The Collector", where a man collected butterflies and then kidnapped a woman, later adding her to his collection. Hoarders want complete control over a living creature and cannot let go, because just like an alcoholic, their choices in life stem from fear, NEVER LOVE. Their God-like complex says that no one but them can take better care of the animal, though the number of animals they collect are beyond their means. Therefore, the care of the animal ALWAYS suffers because of this hoarding addiction.
If anyone has a 501c animal charity and depends on donations, people have every right to check to see if any mental illness of hoarding or rescuism is possibly happening. In fact, I believe it is our duty to check to make sure no shelters are run by hoarders, because like all illnesses, it will regress and kill animals if not treated. The first change is a welcome to any rescue for someone checking on hoarding. I believe this is an epidemic and is the #1 killer of animals in private shelters, at some level or another. We need to band together and get involved with the community and stop potential hoarders from running a shelter, just as we should not have child molesters running summer camps. Shelters are becoming dumping grounds for poor animals and then havens for the mentally ill hoarders. Worst of all, I have observed that these hoarders surround themselves in a cult-like environment. This disease of hoarding thrives on being worshipped where hoarders seek their 15 minutes of fame from weak minded groupies. Shame on these enablers. Both the enablers and the hoarders end up hiding and lying about their animal collection, proving the enablers and hoarders know right from wrong. Bottom line, the focus of saving the animals is lost in the obsession of rescuism. Therapists all agree that no one has any business rescuing when that person is running away from their own problems. That is co-dependent. Hoarders stop us from finding real solutions for pet over- population, in fact, they encourage it.
I will dedicate the rest of my life in stopping hoarders from running shelters that have this mental disease of rescuism. As a part of my recovery, in a fellowship manner, I will reach out and help any hoarder who wants my help. I would like to start a 12-step program for those who confuse rescue with kipnapping, (and taking animals hostage), where the animals all end up dying in small prison-like cages.