Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | April 7, 2010

Help Prevent Pet Hoarding

Oscar the Gregarious...

Dear Pet Column, I have been hearing more about “Pet Hoarders” in the news these days, could you please explain what this issue is about?      – Perplexed about Pet Hoarding

Dear Perplexed, animal hoarding is a puzzling and disturbing subject for certain and one that we should all be more educated about.  And you are right, it is becoming increasingly common in the US today with up to 2,000 new cases of animal hoarding reported in the United States each year with a quarter-million animals falling victim, through starvation, illness, and death (according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

According to the ASPCA, signs of animal hoarding include having an indeterminate number of animals that even the owner is unable to quantify; deterioration of the home to the point where appliances, plumbing, and electricity may either be faulty or not work at all; animals are unsocialized, lethargic, or generally unhealthy in appearance; the owner is isolated from the community, friends, and family, and appears to be suffering from neglect himself.

Hoarding is also marked by a denial of the inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling. The homes of animal hoarders are frequently so overrun with animal waste that the residence itself is ultimately condemned and residents often suffer from a wide range of resulting serious medical conditions.

Despite the severity of the problem, one of the hallmarks of the classic animal hoarder is the genuine inability to see the suffering that is rampant around them. “I love my babies, I’d never hurt them,” Barbara Erickson, a convicted animal hoarder and the subject of Celeste Killeen’s –Inside Animal Hoarding: The Case of Barbara Erickson and Her 552 Dogs – was quoted as saying, even as animal control officers were removing dead and dying dogs from her tiny home in eastern Oregon.

A common sticking point in animal hoarding: a recidivism rate of nearly 100 percent. Animal hoarders will just reacquire more if their animals are removed, and it’s almost impossible to prevent. Most experts on the subject agree that standard prosecution of animal hoarders is ineffectual, at best. Social service agencies must collaborate with animal shelters and law enforcement to intervene and then follow up with years of monitoring to prevent a recurrence.

A long probation at least could prevent other animals from being in that kind of position and suffering, and it also gives the hoarder a chance to get some kind of psychological help or support to resolve some of the issues that contributed toward the problem.

There has been significant progress in the understanding of animal hoarders over the past ten years and it is even being considered as a diagnosable mental disorder by the American Psychology Association, and thus a beginning in the development of therapeutic  long-term treatments for individuals with the diagnosis.

In addition to this move by the APA, the animal rights community is doing what they can to protect animals by lobbying for legislation that would either directly or indirectly impact animal hoarders around the country.

Contact your local law enforcement agency if you have concerns about a potential hoarding situation.  You may be doing that person and all of the animals involved a great service. 

Call the Second Chance Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter Financial Assistance, Volunteer & Foster Care, or other Programs.  Visit our shelter pets online:  Direct Pet Column questions to:  kelly@secondchancehumanesociety.orgPhoto by Real Life Photographs.



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