Hoarding in any form can make life difficult at best and unhealthy at worst. Although hoarding is often seen as an individual collecting items that don’t have any real value but are still seen by that person as having value, there is another type of hoarding that is equally dangerous: animal hoarding.
There are a reported 250,000 animals every year that are the victims of animal hoarding and many cases are expected to go unreported every year.
Let’s get one thing clear right away: having a lot of pets isn’t considered animal hoarding. Even having several cats or dogs in a small, confined space isn’t hoarding unless there is an inability to properly care for those animals. Animal hoarding is the keeping of an abnormally large amount of animals in squalor so that the person and their animals are not receiving the care they need.
Here Are 3 Fast Facts About Animal Hoarding
1. The amount of reported animal hoarding cases has doubled within the last 4 years alone.
2. 72% of animal hoarders are women and recidivism rates for animal hoarders are almost at 100%.
3. The only long-term solution to prevent animal hoarding is to prevent discovered hoarders from owning pets every again.
Takeaway: Everyone has known a little elderly lady who takes care of her cats because she has no one else for company. This isn’t what animal hoarding is typically about. Animal hoarding is a feeling that someone has that they need to rescue every animal that they see, regardless of their ability to properly care for that animal with all the others that are being cared for at any given time. Although the intentions of people in this situation generally start out as being positive, it turns into a form of animal cruelty that is never intentional at first, but almost always happens.
What Happens with Animal Hoarding?
1. The most commonly hoarded animal amongst discovered cases of animal hoarding is the cat.
2. Most cases of animal hoarding will completely bankrupt a humane society once the problem has been discovered.
3. 3,500 new cases of animal hoarding are discovered every year.
4. The most common reason why animal hoarding begins is because of an extremely stressful event that happens without any additional support, from health issues to the loss of an important relationship.
5. 40% of people who are likely to hoard objects are also likely to become animal hoarders.
6. Cats might be the most commonly hoarded animal, but any animal can be hoarded. Cases of hoarding goats, chickens, lizards, and snakes have all be discovered.
7. It is believed that animal hoarding exists in some form in every community.
8. 72% of hoarders are women and that the most common animal victims of hoarders are cats, followed by dogs.
Takeaway: In order to protect these animals, people must be able to do more than just pass by a suspected house where animal hoarding is taking place and shake their heads at the sight. If there is a negative odor coming from a home that contains a lot of pets, then there is a good chance that hoarding is going on. If there are pets that aren’t receiving a basic standard of care, then something needs to be done. Most animal hoarders will not seek out help on their own. They believe that the conditions of their home are fine, even needed sometimes, because it is just part of taking care of so many loving pets.
Why is Animal Hoarding so Dangerous?
1. Many animal hoarders have been discovered to own numerous cages for their animals, creating an unnatural hierarchy within their group that affects the animal’s social development.
2. Because there are so many animals for which to care, the levels of urine and feces tends to slowly build until it covers much of a home.
3. Once animal waste starts building up, the accumulated waste can produce high levels of ammonia that can burn the eyes, lungs, and even skin.
4. Diseases move quickly through accumulated waste as well, creating contagious conditions that can range from kennel cough to manage and some diseases can be transferred to humans.
5. Most animal hoarders don’t have the resources to properly feed or water their animals, creating conditions that promote cannibalism.
6. Most animals that are rescued from these conditions must be euthanized because of their ill health or manic mental conditions that develop over the time of confinement.
7. Knowing why people hoard animals is critical to how to intervene because some hoarders lack any remorse, having sociopathic characteristics, and are indifferent to the harm they cause.
Takeaway: Although there are some hoarders that will exploit their animals because they value they see is in personal profit, like what you’d find at a puppy mill, for example, the majority of hoarders are called rescue hoarders. They are typically people who suffer from high levels of anxiety and hoard animals as a measure of relief. Many people accidentally enable this type of behavior because they see “good” things happening, but the reality is that they are unable to efficiently problem-solve the hoarding behavior. What’s worse is that many hoarders have their self-esteem dependent on the amount of animals they are caring for.
How Can Interventions Take Place?
1. Most animal hoarders can be convinced to stop their practices by being encouraged to scale down their operations so that they can be more effective.
2. Legal action is often the most required option for animal hoarders to stop their activities, though this isn’t always effective for those that are overwhelmed with their care.
3. Many animal hoarders will regularly visit animal adoption websites and forums in order to feed their hoarding addiction.
4. It must always be remembered that the vast majority of animal hoarding cases occur because people feel like they are receiving an abundance of love.
5. Because recidivism rates for hoarders are almost 100% for repeat offenders, the only long-term solution for stopping their behavior is to prevent them from owning animals.
Takeaway: The most disturbing cases of animal hoarding are those that are doing so to create profit. When animals are simply discarded, it creates a problem that must be immediately solved before additional harm occurs. For most other cases, simply confronting the issue and providing support is often enough to resolve the behaviors. Support must be in the form of resolving hoarding instead of trying to provide care for those animals, however, because their current environment will invite more harm than good.