Animal Hoarding: How Many Pets are Too Many?

When most people think of animal hoarding, they think of the extreme cases shown on Animal Planet’s Confessions: Animal Hoarding, or similar programs on A&E and Discovery networks. Others think of the crazy, elderly cat lady, exemplified by Arabella Figg, the Squib cat dealer who served as Harry Potter’s occasional babysitter on Wisteria Walk. Despite such stereotypical descriptions of animal hoarders, no particular group of people is at risk for the disorder. All types of people and multiple species of animals, not just dogs and cats, can be involved in hoarding.

Is the clinic client with 10 cats a hoarder?

The answer is not as simple as the question seems. If the 10 cat owner is able to provide a clean, disease-free home environment, preventive healthcare, and emergency services for the 10 cats, AND is able provide themselves with food, clothing, a clean home and pay his bills, he is probably not an animal hoarder. But, if he is behind in his rent, only brings in sick cats in poor physical condition and denies the cat has a serious medical problem, the veterinarian may be dealing with an animal hoarder.

What are some of the risks for animals, animal hoarders or for those living in a community with a hoarder?

Because animals that are hoarded do not have adequate food, medical care and hygiene, hoarding is considered to be a form of animal cruelty. In addition to neglecting their animals, hoarders often neglect themselves or other family members such as children and the elderly. The squalid conditions found in hoarding situations affect not only the animal hoarder and the animals, but may hurt the community as well. There is an increased risk of fire, poor air quality and transmission of infectious disease from sick animals to humans.

If you suspect someone is an animal hoarder, what can you do?

  • Call your local humane law enforcement organization. If you are not sure who is in your jurisdiction, ask your veterinarian.
  • Animal hoarding is not just an animal problem; it is a human one as well. Management of a hoarding situation includes contacting a social services organization to help the hoarder understand.
  • Support only legitimate animal rescue groups. Don’t confuse an animal hoarder with not–for-profit rescue groups, shelters or animal sanctuaries. Volunteer or give money to documented 501(c)(3) corporations with a reputation for providing high quality animal care.

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This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

2 thoughts on “Animal Hoarding: How Many Pets are Too Many?”

  1. I saw a cat this morning from a hoarding home. Strong urine smell on cat, carrier, and person. Compound fracture of a rear leg-old dried out bone protruding through the skin. Owner elected euthanasia over amputation. I let kitty out of her earthly hell….Animal control is notified repeatedly, spca knows about it, family members are complicit in it. This disorder is contagious and pernicious. I presently have three hoarders in my practice who all know they are right about what they do. My staff members are demoralized by the lack of reason. Every time I can lend aid to a cat, I do it, but these hoarders are a different breed and are almost impossible to help. The animals, the weakest link, are always the victims, and it is sickening.Refusing service protects staff and self but is no solution…..

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