There are so many benefits to having a pet in the family, but having too many can lead to becoming an animal hoarder, a condition that is financially, emotionally, and physically devastating for all involved. It often starts with good intentions, which cascades to animal neglect and abuse.
An animal hoarder is someone with an excessive amount of animals. These owners are not able to provide basic care for these animals including proper food, water, adequate living space and sanitary conditions. Animal hoarders usually live in a state of denial; they love their animals and believe that they are saving these animals and that no one else can take better care of them.
Animal hoarding is dangerous for the animals, the family, and the community. The animals can suffer from dehydration, starvation, or diseases. The humans involved usually become financially drained. Their home can deteriorate from the filth, becoming a health and fire hazard that occasionally leads to death. The excessive amount of urine and feces can spread infectious diseases in the neighborhood and the smell can pollute the air. According to studies, nearly 2,000 animal hoarding cases with over 250,000 animal victims are reported in the U.S. every year.
Unfortunately, the Humane Society reports that “animal hoarding is still poorly understood” in the medical field.
It’s been said to be a symptom of “psychological and neurological malfunctioning.” And it has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because of the ambiguity of this condition, treatment can be difficult. Usually an intervention is organized and the hoarder may undergo therapy, clean their homes, and handover the majority of their pets. Unfortunately, animal hoarding relapses are extremely common.
Criminal charges can be filed against animal hoarders but it can be a rather difficult process. Usually the charges involve violations to the fire code or animal cruelty charges. However, many organizations (like the ASPCA) wonder if prosecution is the right solution for all animal hoarders since the perpetrators are “often emotionally troubled rather than criminally inclined.”
Do you suspect that someone you know is an animal hoarder? There are many telling signs:
- The owner may be unaware of how many animals are in their possession.
- The owners may isolate themselves from others.
- Owners’ homes may be deteriorating, unsanitary, and infested with vermin and fleas.
- Owners may insist their pets are fine even when the animals look poor and unhealthy.
Mindful Animal™ is about loving and respecting our four-legged friends and creatures found on this planet! If you want to seek out help for a potential animal hoarder try these resources: The Hoarding of Animal Research Consortium and Animal Planet’s Confessions: Animal Hoarding.