A recent article from the New York Times, written before the killing of scores of animals released from an animal farm near Zanesville, Ohio, may explain in part what motivated Terry Thompson to keep so many animals under marginal conditions.
Animal hoarding is a disorder "in which people keep far more pets than they can care for...."
The hoarders may otherwise be high-functioning individuals, says Dr. Gary J. Patronek, a clinical assistant professor at the veterinary school of Tufts University and founder of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium. 'We’ve seen teachers, nurses, public officials, even veterinarians,' he said in an interview. 'They live a double life.'
At work, they behave responsibly and know the importance of good hygiene. They go home and enter another world, one of squalor and chaos, of overwhelming stench and undernourished animals, of pets that have died for lack of care.
Yet the hoarders notice none of this. 'You walk in, you can’t breathe, there are dead and dying animals present, but the person is unable to see it,' Dr. Patronek said. Cat carcasses may alternate with food in the refrigerator, 'but in the person’s mind it’s happy and wonderful, it’s a peaceable kingdom.'
Hoarders may think of themselves as animal saviors, rescuing pets from the jaws of the pound; yet they are not remotely capable of caring for the animal throngs, and they soon give up trying. 'It’s a very focal, delusional behavior,' Dr. Patronek said. And it can be all the more difficult to treat for wearing the trappings of selflessness and love."