Animal Hoarding: A Phenomenon Affecting the Welfare of Animals and Our Communities

In cities across this country, police and health officials discover thousands of animals of all types ranging from dogs, to cats, birds, goats, and even pigs, imprisoned in the homes of animal hoarders. Victims of animal hoarding suffer from disease, neglect, malnutrition, and starvation at the hands of their owners. Animal hoarding is a form of animal cruelty that affects not only the safety and well-being of animals but public safety as well.


A Definition of Animal Hoarding
Animal hoarding is a phenomenon that has only recently received public and media attention. In previous years, animal hoarders may have gone completely unnoticed and undiagnosed. By understanding the definition of animal hoarding, communities and concerned citizens will become better equipped to stop or prevent instances from occurring. A recent article entitled “Quick Summary of Animal Hoarding” written by Victoria Hayes on http://animallaw.info , defined animal hoarding as a large number of animals acquired by an individual, which has become overwhelming to that individual to the degree that the animals are not receiving the most basic requirements for their health and safety. Furthermore, the individual is unable or unwilling to recognize that the living conditions of the effected animals and surrounding humans is unacceptable by any standards.

 

The Cause for Animal Hoarding
Senseless acts of negligence upon hundreds of innocent animals begs the question, “Why do they do it?” Until recently, many people thought that individuals with large accumulations of animals were simply “animal lovers.” However, experts agree that animal hoarding is a form or symptom of mental illness that must be addressed by psychological treatment.

 

The Consequences of Animal Hoarding
Without treatment, animal hoarders have a tendency to continue with their compulsive behavior regardless of the consequences that they face. In many cases, they are alienated by their friends, family, and communities. Furthermore, animal hoarders may face multiple encounters with the law which may result in the loss of their homes or animals, and may involve misdemeanor or felony charges. Generally, animal hoarding charges will be prosecuted according to state animal cruelty laws. In most states animal hoarding is a misdemeanor offense. However, some states consider it to be a felony offense, which may result in jail time.
The animals are the innocent victims who truly suffer the consequences of this horrific act. In many cases, they endure starvation, neglect, disease, and must live in unsanitary environments. In some severe instances, they are forced to live among and even feed on the deceased animals around them. Their fates are grim unless they are found and rescued by caring individuals in the community.
Animal hoarders also affect the lives of humans living among them and in their community. In many cases of animal hoarding, children may be forced to live under the same roof and endure the same unsanitary conditions. They may be exposed to diseases carried by the animals kept at the residence. Neighboring residences may also suffer from exposure to diseases, sanitation problems, and unwelcome sounds and smells due to nearby animal hoarders.

 

Raising Awareness
In an effort to raise awareness of this very serious form of animal cruelty, the state of Hawaii actually passed a law against animal hoarding. Proponents of the law argued that it would help to increase understanding among the general population, of the gravity of the offense. Those opposed to the law simply felt it was redundant, as animal hoarding is currently prosecuted under state animal cruelty laws. Similar laws have been proposed in other states, such as Montana, and New Mexico, but were not passed into law.
Concerned citizens can help to raise awareness in their communities by reporting cases of animal hoarding to local authorities, speaking out in their communities against animal cruelty, and participating in local groups and organizations that fight against these senseless acts.

Information provided by “Quick Summary of Animal Hoarding” written by Victoria Hayes on http://animallaw.info .

 

By Holly Sharpe and Kara Jenkins, TLC House & Pet Sitting Service, LLC.