Animal hoarding in Tampa Bay

Animal hoarding in Tampa Bay

Posted: Updated:
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

They are the stories that spark outrage in the community. They are the cases that consume countless law enforcement hours. They appear to most people in the Tampa Bay Area as nothing more than animal cruelty cases, but to mental health experts the stories look like something else altogether.

"These people are typically good people. They're trying," explains Dr. Daniel Weinberg a psychiatrist at Watson Clinic in Lakeland.

He says the reality of many animal cruelty cases, particularly those that involve dozens of animals in horrific conditions, is that the owners are really hoarders suffering from a mental illness that alters their ability to recognize how bad things are getting.

"You walk into an animal hoarder’s and you'll see three dead cats, and the patient, they won't even recognize they're dead," Weinberg said.

Dr. Kristi Weiner is a clinical psychologist in Tampa. She treats hoarders in her practice and says animal hoarding in particular is especially difficult to treat because the hoarders truly believe they're doing the right thing.

"People who are animal hoarders really do love animals. I mean they start off very much as wanting to help and save these animals," Weiner said.

The problem for hoarders is that their good intentions often spiral out of their control. That's when reclusiveness and isolation become a way of life.

Experts say hoarding can manifest in many ways, but animal hoarders in particular have difficulty maintaining the basic operation of their homes. Yards are often overgrown. Junk and debris frequently litter their property. The foul smell of animal urine and feces can often be detected outside the home.

"They see the greater good or they just see the animals, and after a while they become immune in a sense to their own environment," Weiner said.

Hillsborough County's Code Enforcement department says the problem of hoarding, not only animals but also personal items, has become such a serious problem in the Bay Area that Hillsborough County is now creating a hoarding task force.

That task force will include representatives from law enforcement, code enforcement, animal control, social services, and the mental health field. The group will meet for the first time May 27th.

In the meantime, experts agree friends, family and neighbors are the first line of defense for hoarders.

"The biggest hope for hoarders is a family support system, is having friends and family that can intervene and really be there every step of the way," Weinberg said.

  • Don't Miss ItMore>>

  • Dramatic doggie makeovers put new face to pet adoption

    Dramatic doggie makeovers put new face to pet adoption

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 5:14 PM EDT2014-07-29 21:14:31 GMT
    What a difference a bath can make! Millions of shelter dogs across the United States just need a little bit of grooming and TLC in order to shine, as evidenced by these photos.More >>
    What a difference a bath can make! Millions of shelter dogs across the United States just need a little bit of grooming and TLC in order to shine, as evidenced by these photos.
    More >>
  • Koala survives 54-mile ride clinging to car's grill

    Koala survives 54-mile ride clinging to car's grill

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 1:59 PM EDT2014-07-29 17:59:42 GMT
    Timberwolf clung to a car for 54 miles. Australia Zoo Facebook photoTimberwolf clung to a car for 54 miles. Australia Zoo Facebook photo
    An adorable little koala survived an amazing high-speed ride by clinging to a car for 54 miles on an Australia highway. The koala suffered a torn nail during the ordeal.More >>
    An adorable little koala survived an amazing high-speed ride by clinging to a car for 54 miles on an Australia highway. The koala suffered a torn nail during the ordeal.More >>
  • FWC: Lionfish need to be removed from Florida waters

    FWC: Lionfish need to be removed from Florida waters

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:48 AM EDT2014-07-29 14:48:07 GMT
    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is changing management rules of invasive lionfish to remove them from state waters. Lionfish was introduced to state waters in the 1980s, and since then, populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat, the FWC says.More >>
    Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is changing management rules of invasive lionfish to remove them from state waters. Lionfish was introduced to state waters in the 1980s, and since then, populations have boomed in recent years, negatively impacting native wildlife and habitat, the FWC says.More >>
  • Most Viewed Stories on WFLA.com

  • Animal hoarding in Tampa BayMore>>

  • SIDEBAR: Animal Hoarding Warning Signs

    Monday, May 12 2014 6:54 PM EDT2014-05-12 22:54:22 GMT
    Here are several signs that may indicate someone is an animal hoarder:They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.Fleas and vermin are present.Individual is isolated from community and appear...More >>
    Here are several signs that may indicate someone is an animal hoarder:They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.Fleas and vermin are present.Individual is isolated from community and appear...More >>
  • Sign up for WFLA News Channel 8 Email Alerts

    * denotes required fields






    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.
Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.