Animal Hoarding: The Sad Truth
In my profession (dog trainer), I'm often asked by a client to assist with re-homing their dog. I will foster the dog until a new home can be found. In doing so, I quickly bond and fall in love with the dog that I am helping to place. I teasingly (somewhat) ask my husband if I can keep the dog and his response back to me is, “you are one-dog away from becoming a hoarder.” Seriously! We only have 2 dogs and 2 cats. What would one more actually do to the ratio? So I’ve been thinking lately, is this really how it starts for animal hoarders?
What Is Animal Hoarding?
An animal hoarder is classified as having more then the typical number of companion pets and not being able to provide the necessary nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care. Also, they are in denial of being able to provide the basic necessities listed, as well as the impact it has in the household.
In a weird and twisted way, animal hoarders believe they are helping these animals and that they are the only ones who are able to meet the needs of these animals. Many hoarders are fearful that if they seek help, their beloved pets will be euthanized.
Over 250,000 animals are victims of hoarders each year!
What Is Life Like for the Animal?
Sadly, the animals are the biggest loser in hoarding situations. Neglect, lack of food, and lack of medical care are just a few of the things that these animals experience in a hoarding home.
Step into the house of a hoarder, and the first thing that hits you smack in the face is the smell! The scent of urine and feces spilling over into each room on top of flooring and furniture is overwhelming.
Next, the sight! You will see urine and feces everywhere, cat-litter that hasn’t been changed, and pets forced to sleep and walk in their own waste. The condition of the animals is just as horrifying, eyes and noses full of greenish-yellow gunk caused by serious Upper Respiratory Infections (URI), body sores, hair loss, and mouths filled with blisters, and missing teeth. Even rotting carcasses are found in extreme cases!
Finally, you're bound to notice the noise: cats meowing, dogs barking and we aren’t talking about one, two, or even five animals, we are talking 20, 30, sometimes in the hundreds. They are crying in despair with hunger pains and physical pain, desperately wanting to be pet and touched by a human, to share that bond and affection they are missing in a household full of animals all striving for the same attention.
What Is Life Like for the Human?
They are living amongst the filth and angst, but yet, fully blind to the fact that they are causing this.
Children that are forced to live in an animal hoarding situation could be taken away by the Child Protective Services (CPS).
Living in animal urination and feces affects a human’s health by causing breathing difficulties (urine contains acrid ammonia smell that is airborne) and other issues. Rodents and insects make their way into the home attracted to the uncleanliness. Homes can be deemed as unsafe and unfit, and they could be condemned by city officials.
It is financially depleting to the hoarder, to the point that many are trying to feed the animals first, prior to taking care of themselves, and their family.
Why Can’t Shelters or Rescues Do More to Help?
The resources and funds simply aren't there to provide these animals a place to go until more permanent arrangements can be made. Shelters and Rescues are already struggling with limited funds and lack of space, and, depending on the animal hoarding situation, hundreds of animals could need immediate placement. (Many of these animals require immediate medical attention, too.)
Animals of a hoarding situation are kept in some type of holding facility until the court makes a final ruling on the hoarder’s case. This can take months, making many of these animals unadoptable by the time the court has made their decision.
Due to the lack of funds, many of these animals will be euthanized as the shelters and rescues are unable to medically take care of them. Financially, the community is hit hard as well, trying to assist with the animals caused by a hoarding circumstance.
Is There Help for Animal Hoarders?
Animal Hoarding has such a stigma and is a commonly misunderstood situation. Typically the hoarder suffers from some type of psychological and neurological damage such as, dementia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Treatment is very difficult, and sadly the success rate is very low. Without some type of long-term help, an animal hoarder will repeat their previous situation, starting the vicious cycle all over again.
Early intervention and support of family members can help prevent an animal hoarder from returning to their hoarding tendencies.
I feel very confident I am not on the path to being an animal hoarder, so rest assured my dear husband and children, but there are times that I wonder “if only I had a farm, all the animals I could save.”