Viola Holmes, 7th Grade:
Animal Hoarding is a huge problem in the world, especially for shelters and pet owners. It is when an owner of multiple domestic animals is unable to care for them in the most basic of ways, like providing food, water, and a clean place to live. This unintentional neglect can cause illnesses, starvation and death.
Unfortunately, this issue is even more common in the US than anywhere else – a quarter of a million animals falling victim annually. With an estimated amount of cases coming to around 2,000 per year, Animal Hoarding is becoming a huge concern to animal shelters around the world.
However, this matter doesn’t just affect the animals. As of 2013 Animal Hoarding became a legitimate psychiatric disorder, due to the human’s disability to understand their pets are suffering because of them. According to the ASPCA, some symptoms of this are:
- Having multiple animals
- Their house is deteriorated (e.g. broken furniture, dirty windows, extreme clutter, holes in walls/floor)
- Floors may be covered in vomit, urine, feces, etc.
- Fleas and vermin are noticeable
- Owner is isolated and appears to neglect themselves
- Animals appear to be tired, not well socialized, and emaciated
- Owner insist all animals are happy and healthy – even when there are clear signs of neglect
This disorder can be caused by a variety of other disorders, including, but not limited to: paranoia, attachment issues and personality disorders, delusional thinking, and depression. Many hoarders start after a traumatic loss, while others see themselves as rescuers. These people can be any race, age, or gender, however elderly people are more at-risk due to their social isolation and failing health.
Alarmingly, some hoarders even pretend to be rescue shelters or groups. This is incredibly dangerous for your animal so here are some ways to tell the hoarders apart from the professionals:
- The group refuses to reveal the number of animals in their care and make nearly no effort to find the pets new owners
- They are unwilling to reveal the area they house the animals
- Despite the already poor conditions of the animals in their care, the group continues to take in more animals
- The actual shelters and rescue organizations are viewed as adversaries
- Animals may be taken in at an isolated place (e.g. parking lots, street corners…)
If someone is discovered hoarding, it is very unlikely that they will be prosecuted due to the fact that they were not actually aware that what they were doing was wrong. This makes it hard to charge them for animal cruelty (a felony) since they were technically suffering from a mental illness. Many people believe criminal prosecution is not the answer, and instead, most judges either have the hoarder go to counseling or forbid them from getting more animals.
Remember, people who have multiple animals are not necessarily hoarders, but if you believe that someone you know is a hoarder, please report them to your local police and social services for both the good of their animals, and themselves.