There is a difference between responsible animal care and people who are overwhelmed. Having many animals requires time, money, space and knowledge. People who irresponsibly keep large numbers of pets are harming both the animals and themselves, and they're harming the reputation of responsible pet owners. We consider anyone who tries to care for more animals than they have money, space and time for to be a potential animal hoarder who needs help.
For example, an exotic pet owner could keep 50 reptiles in their home without being considered a hoarder. However, if the owner is unable to provide the correct environments, veterinary care or meet the animals' dietary needs, then they have surpassed their capabilities and are no longer putting the needs of their animals first.
Among the stories we've featured are:
- A girl in her 20's, with 11 pets, who had once been the life of the party.
- A woman afraid to let her 8 dogs outside, letting them destroy her home.
- A young man who felt compelled to rescue pit bulls despite the insistence from family he focus on the care of his 2-year-old daughter.
- A newlywed who substituted pets for kids, but who's cat population of 70 was
Types of hoarders:
Animal hoarders often fall into one of the following three categories but can sometimes exhibit characteristics across categories:
The Overwhelmed Caregiver
The overwhelmed caregiver initially provides adequate care for the animals and believes that while a problem has slowly developed, it's not as serious as others think it is.
The Rescuer Hoarder
The rescuer hoarder develops a compulsion based on a strong desire to rescue animals from possibly deadly situations, actively acquiring animals with the belief no one else is capable of caring for them. Often working with a network of enablers, they will find it difficult to refuse taking in a new animal.
The Exploiter Hoarder
The exploiter hoarder takes in animals to serve his or her own needs and is indifferent to any harm caused to the animals. Typically denying a problem exists, this type of hoarder rejects authority figures or any outside help and has a strong need to be in control while expressing very little remorse or guilt.
The Breeder Hoarder
The breeder hoarder initially breeds animals for sale and becomes overwhelmed with the amount of care they require and the sheer number of animals in the home. This type of hoarder doesn't recognize the severity of the conditions to which the animals are subjected.
The Incipient Hoarder
In most cases friends, family and neighbors are present in the developing stages, when ‘loving animals’ starts to become hoarding them. Warning signs include a shift in the person’s priorities, directing all their available resources, their time, physical space, money and emotions to the collection of animals. An incipient hoarder exhibits some ability to care for their animals. As the number of animals in their care increases, the problems are magnified. At this stage the incipient hoarder has the ability to recognize the problems of having to many animals. Early intervention is the key to prevent the situation from a tragedy.
“Although hoarding may start out as a seemin1gly benevolent mission to save animals, eventually the needs of the animals become lost to the person's needs for control. The resulting compulsive care-giving is pursued to fulfill unmet human needs, while the real needs of the animals are ignored or disregarded. Sometimes hoarders act as individuals, and other times they masquerade as animal rescue activities. They should never be confused for these legitimate and worthwhile efforts.”
- Dr. Gary Patronek 2010.
Legitimate shelters, rescue or sanctuaries place the needs of the animals first and can recognize when capacity to provide care is exceeded. If the organization's ability to provide adequate care is compromised due the number of animals, the organization will stop intake, increase adoption, increase staff or resources in order to provide proper care. Legitimate organizations encourage visitors and volunteers, publish codes of ethics and promote transparency.