What is animal hoarding?
According to the Hoarding Animals Research Consortium, the following criteria are used to define animal hoarding:
- More than the typical number of companion animals
- Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness and death
- Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and the human occupants of the home
Nearly 250,000 animals are victims of animal hoarding each year. This abuse differs from other types of animal cruelty in that the perpetrators don’t always accept or recognize the cruelty they inflict on their animals. Rather, animal hoarders usually ardently believe they are saving or rescuing the animals they imprison.
How does it cause animal suffering?
Animals kept in hoarding conditions often suffer extreme neglect, including lack of food, proper veterinary care and sanitary conditions. Officers investigating hoarding situations often find floors, furniture and counters covered with animal feces and urine. In extreme cases, decaying animal carcasses are found among the living animals. Insect and rodent infestations are also common.
Are there other concerns?
Aside from obvious animal suffering, animal hoarding presents health hazards for the human occupants of the home. Child and adult protective services can be called to intervene when the hoarder’s neglect extends beyond the animals.
Filthy conditions under which animal hoarders live also attract disease vectors such as insects and rodents. This can also threaten neighboring households. Often a house that is home to a hoarding situation must be condemned by the health department due to unlivable conditions.
Finally, animal hoarding places a tremendous strain on already-overburdened animal shelters, which lack the space or resources to deal with an influx of hundreds of animals, many of whom are usually in dire need of medical attention. Holding these animals pending the outcome of a court case may displace otherwise adoptable animals and lead to their euthanasia.