The world-renowned Mayo Clinic defines pet hoarding as a disorder illustrated by a pervasive, persistent accumulation of animals accompanied by an inability to part with them. Pet hoarding currently is considered to be a subtype of hoarding. Some experts maintain that pet hoarding should be set aside as a disorder in its own right.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on Pet Hoarding
The ASPCA is highly involved in addressing the consequences of pet hoarding in California and across the United States. The organization recognizes pet hoarding as a complicated issue that involves:
- Mental health issues for the hoarder
- Animal welfare issues
- Public safety concerns
Types of Pets Commonly Hoarded
Technically speaking, any type of animal can be hoarded. With that point recognized, cats are the most commonly hoarded pet, with dogs in second place. Other animals kept as pets that are hoarded include:
There have been instances in which farm animals are hoarded. A television program that detailed the lives of hoarders once devoted an episode to a man whose house was overrun by rats – rodents for which the individual had a strong affection.
Criteria Utilized to Identify Pet Hoarding
There is a set of criteria that is relied upon when attempting to identify a person as a pet hoarder. These criteria include:
- A person possesses more than the typical number of companion animals or pets
- A person is unable to provide even a minimal standard of care for a pet
- An individual cannot meet the minimum standards of nutrition, sanitation, and shelter for the animals
- The animals do not receive appropriate veterinary care
- An individual denies his or her inability to provide even minimal care for the animals in his or her possession
- A person is unable to recognize the negative impact the accumulation of pets has on the animals themselves.
Why Do People Hoard Pets?
People hoard pets for a variety of different reasons. Indeed, research is not that in depth as to the underlying causes of pet hoarding at this time. However, there are some recurring and apparent reasons why individuals appear to engage in this type of behavior. These include:
- Attachment disorders
- Personality disorders
- Combination of attachment and personality disorders
- Delusional thinking
- Other mental illnesses
How Many Pets Are Subjected to Hoarding?
The honest answer is no one really knows how many pets are the victims of hoarding. Indeed, no one really knows how many pet hoarders exist in Los Angeles, California, or the United States at any given moment. Understanding these realities, the ASPCA estimates that 250,000 companion animals are victimized by hoarding every year.
How Can a Pet Hoarder Be Identified?
There are a number of signs that are indicative of a person who is pet hoarding. These are:
- Numerous animals at a residence, but the suspected hoarder has no idea how many
- The residence itself is deteriorating, including broken furniture and windows as well as extreme clutter
- A strong smell of ammonia at the residence
- Floors may be littered with dried urine, feces, and vomit
- Animals at the residence are not well socialized and appear emaciated as well as lethargic
- Fleas and vermin are present at the residence
- The suspected hoarder is isolated from others
- The suspected hoarder appears to neglect his or her self
- The suspected hoarder insists that the animals are healthy and happier, even though the animals are in evident distress and are unwell
How Can a Pet Hoarder Be Helped?
Getting an animal hoarder to accept help can be a challenging endeavor. The first step in the process is to reach out the pet hoarder and attempt to establish a relationship of trust with that individual. An important initial step is to be able to assure the pet hoarder that the goal of obtaining help is not to isolate the hoarder or harm the pets. In fact, a pet hoarder needs to be assured that his or her animals are in need of immediate assistance. The lives of these pets are in jeopardy and they may die if professional help is not provided to them promptly.
If the pet hoarder ultimately does agree to receive assistance with the situation, another issue that must be dealt with is the elimination of the harmful waste that likely has accumulated in the residence as a result of hoarding. In most cases, the assistance of a trained, experienced professional pet hoarding cleanup specialist is necessary. This is a professional well-versed in all aspects of biohazardous remediation.