Carroll panel to discuss threat posed by hoarders

Animal, item collectors might endanger public

April 09, 2004|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

Carroll County officials will examine ways to address complaints about residents hoarding animals and other items that could threaten public safety.

Nicky Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County, suggested at a meeting yesterday that the county develop a collaborative approach in answering such complaints. Often, she said, several departments can get involved in a case without knowing what the other is doing.

Ratliff will organize and lead a task force made up of representatives from county health, zoning, social services, code enforcement, legal and animal control agencies to discuss ideas for dealing with the problem.

"Every agency has their own policies ... and not all agencies know what the others are doing," said Ratliff, noting that New York City has established a task force on hoarding.

County Chief of Staff Steven D. Powell told the commissioners that many zoning issues relate to hoarding. The county has also received complaints from relatives of hoarders, looking for intervention, Powell said.

Ratliff said hoarding involves collecting animals or any number of items. Hoarding can create problems, such as fire hazards and rodent infestation, that affect the entire community, she said.

"Some people hoard animals," Ratliff said. "Some hoard newspapers. Some hoard everything."

In a case in 2000, a Manchester man died in a two-alarm fire at a house whose owner was cited for failing to clean up the property.

Fire officials said floor-to-ceiling debris in the house made it difficult to fight the blaze. The homeowner, who survived the fire, was on probation at the time for failing to comply with a court order to remove the debris.

County Commissioner Dean L. Minnich warned that the county should exercise caution in dealing with hoarders.

"I want to be careful that we don't send out a message that we will go into the attic and see if they have a collection of comic books," Minnich said.

Ratliff and Powell assured him that the county's approach in dealing with such problems has always been complaint-driven.

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