Animal hoarding: Its roots and recognition - Veterinary Medicine
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Animal hoarding: Its roots and recognition
Because you are likely to encounter an animal hoarder, familiarize yourself with the signs of hoarding and build relationships now with the authorities you can turn to for support.


This failure to act is accompanied by varying—and typically large—degrees of denial regarding the extent of the deterioration.

Table 1 Examples of Recent Animal Hoarding Cases
Since Worth and Beck's report in 1981, a second case series formally detailed the severe impairment in household functioning observed in cases of animal hoarding,8 and another speculated on possible psychological underpinnings.9 Two reports in a law journal have described case features as well as the legal difficulties encountered during intervention.10,11 One of these reports discusses a single case in some detail: that of a woman who traveled across the United States with 115 dogs confined to a bus and who resisted or eluded all attempts at intervention until she was finally arrested in Oregon in 1993.10 Her trial ultimately involved eight court-appointed lawyers, six judges, and three prosecutors. Although her case may have been unusual in the protracted trial proceedings, other features were quite typical. Features of some representative cases are listed in Table 1. A comprehensive national database of hoarding case reports can be found at

Animal hoarders are typically single, older, socioeconomically disadvantaged females who live alone.5 However, this behavior can cross all socioeconomic and demographic boundaries. Ample reports of animal hoarding exist involving men, married couples, families, people with white-collar jobs, and even healthcare professionals such as physicians and nurses. Sadly, and perhaps most paradoxically, documented cases of veterinarians who are animal hoarders exist as well.

Table 2 Types of Animal Hoarders and Their Defining Characteristics*
The list of animal species hoarded is long and varied. Cats, and to a somewhat lesser extent dogs, are the most commonly hoarded species, likely due in part to convenience. But hoarding of farm and wild animals has also been reported, including horses, birds, reptiles, rodents, and both native and foreign wildlife species. The underground trade in exotic and endangered species, facilitated by the Internet, has made it surprisingly easy for private individuals to acquire poisonous vipers, primates, tigers, wolves, and other animals that pose inherent dangers to the hoarder as well as the community.

A particularly insidious form of animal hoarder is the institutional or quasi-institutional hoarder. These individuals masquerade (often quite effectively) under the guise of legitimate shelters, sanctuaries, hospices, rescue groups, or foster care providers. Often the deception is sophisticated and deliberate and may serve both as a conduit for donations as well as a way for these individuals to obtain an air of legitimacy, which furthers their ability to obtain animals. Some hoarders may even have official nonprofit status or may pursue such a designation if they feel threatened.


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