By all accounts, the scene investigators came upon when they entered the Shamong Township house of 65 year old Donna Roberts was shocking and disgusting. The smell of ammonia and dog feces permeated the entire residence to the point where officers became dizzy and nauseated. Forty four dead dogs were found stored in bags and in freezers and 130 live dogs were found in deplorable conditions. It seems that we keep hearing stories like this and no one seems to be able to answer the question: what would compel a person to have so many animals?

It’s obviously a mental illness, no less than hoarding, which is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder. It’s easy to tell that Donna Roberts probably has a mental illness, what with the alleged abuse of the animals and the frozen dog carcasses. You don’t have to be a psychologist to figure that out. But it’s not so obvious when people have five dogs, or eight dogs or 15 kittens, three dogs and a hamster. Even those relatively “normal” numbers, to me, are a red flag. It’s a serious sign that something is wrong and that a person who engages in animal “collecting” is trying to fulfill some need or answer some compulsion that he or she has not been able to by any other means.

Perhaps the person did not receive love growing up, or longed for children and was not able to have them. It could be that a person is simply searching, as many do in our Godless modern world—searching for purpose, for love or to fill his soul, yet never quite succeeding. I’m not sure what is the “right” number of pets to have. Obviously, that is subjective. But I can tell you that even in cases where the animals are treated well, having more than four or five is a definite sign there’s something sorely lacking in one’s life and some intervention is needed. Like any other compulsion, having too many pets is a mental illness that needs to be addressed.

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