One area of hoarding that I haven't addressed on the blog is animal hoarding. It's a complex issue that touches upon a number of factors: mental health, public safety, and animal well-being.
Animal hoarding occurs when a person accumulates a large number of pets and fails to provide minimal standards of care for them. This includes poor nutrition, a lack of space, inadequate sanitation, and infrequent veterinary care.
There are several signs that may indicate someone is hoarding animals:
- The home is overcrowded with animals and the owner has amassed an abnormal amount of pets.
- The person is neglecting their own care and well-being.
- There is a strong smell of ammonia and floors and other surfaces may be covered with animal excrement.
- The animals are malnourished and not well socialized.
- The home is deteriorating - extreme clutter, structural damage, broken furniture, and non-functioning appliances.
- The individual believes that their animals are healthy and well-cared for despite signs of illness and distress.
According to the ASPCA "every year in the United States, a quarter of a million animals fall victim to hoarding." The animals most commonly found in animal hoarding cases include cats, dogs, reptiles, and rodents, but there are also reported cases of birds and farm animals.
What should be noted in animal hoarding cases is that the individual is often struggling with mental health issues rather than criminal violence and aggression towards the animals.
Although there is not an official diagnosis for animal hoarding many animal hoarders can suffer from the following:
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: There is an overwhelming sense of responsibility to care for these animals and prevent them harm.
Delusions: A distorted sense of reality occurs as the person truly feels the animals are receiving the best care and they are the only ones who can save these creatures.
Attachment Disorder: Preference is for relationships with animals over people as animals love unconditionally and are safer than having connections with humans.
If you suspect animals are being neglected, please contact humane officials and the police. According to PETA, "at least 57% of animal-hoarding cases are brought to authorities' attention by a hoarder's neighbors."
A multi-disciplinary approach needs to be taken for each hoarding case. The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts University has a comprehensive website that offers information on intervention, counseling, and case management.
There is also the book: Inside Animal Hoarding: The Story of Barbara Erikson and her 552 Dogs by Arnold Arluke and Celeste Killeen. This book offers an in-depth view of animal hoarding and how to recognize and respond to it.
Additional websites to find information include:
The Humane Society of the United States
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Animal Hoarding Website
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Please educate yourself and others on the severity of this rising problem.