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Animal hoarding

Animal hoarding is a serious mental health issue that involves an individual or individuals acquiring more animals than they can care for. According to The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts University, animal hoarding can be defined by the following characteristics:

  • 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 human occupants of the dwelling

According to Dr. Gary Patronek, founder of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts, there are three “types” of animal hoarders1:

  1. Overwhelmed Caregiver Hoarder – are more based in reality, become overwhelmed by the number of animals that they take in
  2. Rescuer Hoarder – mission driven, they are actively and compulsively acquiring animals
  3. Exploiter Hoarder – feel no empathy towards animals or humans, acquire animals to serve their own needs

Animal hoarders often keep animals numbering in the tens or hundreds. These animals are kept in abysmal conditions without having their basic needs met. Most hoarders do not feel that their actions are endangering the lives of the animals they keep, but rather that they are saving lives. Because hoarders are unable to provide even the minimal level of care for the animals, animal protection agencies who raid such residences report finding the homes caked in layers of feces, bodies of dead animals lying around, and no food or water for the animals that are alive. Animal welfare advocates have struggled for a number of years to have animal hoarding taken seriously as a mental disorder.

For more information on animal hoarding please visit the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium

1 Beyond the “Crazy Cat Lady” Stereotype: An Introduction to Animal Hoarding, interview on Animal Voices: March 25th, 2008

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