Animal hoarding is a severe form of animal abuse that often goes undetected until the situation gets out of control. In May of this year, two local hoarding cases made the news. One, in Coachella Valley—a woman was caught disposing of puppies in a dumpster and then found to have 38 animals in her home in deplorable conditions. A second, larger case came to light in Orange, California, where authorities rescued more than 130 animals from a hoarding situation.
When these stories come out, communities and pet lovers express outrage and wonder, “How did this happen?” or “How could we possibly have known?” It’s easy to turn a blind eye to those in our community who may be hoarding. And, without much legislation defining hoarding, it often goes unseen and unreported until it’s out of hand. A hoarder could be your neighbor who has cats in the window—but you don’t know how many. Or it could be the guy down the street who takes in all the stray animals—he’s so nice. But has he ever actually let you inside his home?
According to the ASPCA, the signs and symptoms of an animal hoarder include the following:
■ They have numerous animals (living and dead) and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
■ Their home has deteriorated (e.g., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in the walls and floors, extreme clutter).
■ There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.
■ Animals are emaciated, lethargic, and not well socialized.
■ Fleas and vermin are present.
■ The individual is isolated from the community and appears to neglect him- or herself.
■ The individual insists that all their animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.
“Don’t talk yourself out of calling authorities because you don’t want to offend someone or cause drama. It’s better to let animal control investigate a suspected hoarder’s home than wonder if you failed the pets in need by failing to heed your instincts and intuition.”
— Tom Snyder, Animal Samaritans