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Animal Hoarding


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Animal Hoarding
Drive To Save Lives: A Hoarder Intervention
Thyme and Sage Ranch Investigation
"Galien Hell House" section of "Free To Good Home?"
Reporting Animal Cruelty
Animal Hoarding Links:
48 Dogs Rescued in Pierce Co. Animal Cruelty Case
Rehoming: Free To Good Home?
Contact us

Dog rescued from a hoarder situation.

This dog, named Hope by rescuers, was discovered tied up in a barn after her hoarder- owner died. The owner's children knew she had "a couple of cats," but were shocked to find the house full of trash, with every surface -- floors, furniture, stairs, even bedding -- covered with urine, excrement, and molding food. The "couple of cats" turned out to be a couple dozen hiding in the maze of piled newspapers, magazines, and other debris, with a few dead cats also scattered here and there. Volunteers from a local animal rescue, called in to live- trap the cats, had to smear Vicks in their nostrils to mask the overpowering stench. Nobody realized the dogs were even on the property until rescuers happened to check the barn. There, half a dozen or so filthy, hungry, neglected dogs of various sizes and breeds greeted rescuers with joy.

Underneath literally pounds of feces- and filth- encrusted hair, Hope was a sweet- natured girl who was thought to be part schnauzer (a non- shedding breed that must be clipped regularly or the hair just keeps growing and growing). The first thing she did after being shaved was to take a joyful roll in the grass.

       "[Animal Hoarders generally have] good intentions...but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and [these situations are] definitely a considerable distance down that road for the animals involved. On top of that, in their untrained, unprepared and unfinanced 'rescue' efforts, these people SIGNIFICANTLY contributed to MORE homeless pets!" -- A shelter manager involved in the Drive To Save Lives Hoarder Intervention.

       What is animal hoarding (previously called "collecting")? Quite simply put, animal hoarders keep large numbers of dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, horses, or whatever -- and continue to take in even more, though they are unable to provide sufficient food, housing, and veterinary care (including spay/ neuter). In many cases, animal hoarders will deny that they can't take adequate care of the pets for whom they are responsible. (See the Tufts Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium website for more on the definition of animal hoarding, as well as FAQ's.)

       While the definition is simple, the problem is anything but. Animal hoarders can be found in all geographic locations and all levels of society -- and friends, co-workers, and even relatives might not know that a person is keeping dozens of animals in his/her home. There are as many types of animal hoarders as there are hoarders themselves, and not all cases are clear-cut.

       In our experience, hoarders may have started out as legitimate animal rescuers or fosters who just "couldn't say no" and got in way over their heads (such as the Thyme and Sage Ranch situation), or as pet owners who took in "free to good home" animals, strays, puppy mill "culls," pets that were turned away from no-kill shelters who simply didn't have room, etc. We've even heard of hoarders posing as rescuers to take animals out of shelters. In many cases, the animals were not spayed or neutered and begin reproducing, thus adding to the hoarder's dilemma.

       The worst part is, in general, animal hoarders don't feel that anyone can take as good care of the pets as they do. So, self-styled rescuers may not adopt any animals out but just keep taking them in. Or, a backyard breeder may not find anyone suitable to buy his/her puppies, so keeps them -- and their puppies, and their puppies' puppies. Some, though not all, may also hoard "things" -- turning their homes into nearly impassable mazes until even the hoarders themselves have no idea how many animals are hiding out there.

       If the animals are lucky, neighbors, police, or shelter workers intervene before the situation becomes too bad. If not -- animals die. In one extreme case, hoarders became so overwhelmed that they simply boarded up the house with all the animals inside -- and left town. The horrific results are still the stuff of nightmares for police officers and animal welfare workers who were called to the scene. (Read about one such incident here.)

       Animal hoarding can be devastating not just to the animals involved, but (as mentioned above) to law enforcement and humane workers who respond when a hoarding situation is discovered, to community and shelter resources when dozens of animals in poor health need to be housed, fed, and vetted, and even to the court system which, many times, just isn't sure how to handle these situations. New studies show that hoarding of animals is often an indicator of emotional problems or mental illness, but are fines and counselling appropriate sentences? Will a jail term ultimately do any good? Even if no future contact with animals is allowed, who is to keep hoarders from going somewhere else and starting all over again?

       It's an evolving situation. In this section, we have links to hoarder situations in which we have been involved, as well as to outside studies and cases "in the news." If you think that someone in your neighborhood may be an animal hoarder, call your local police and report it! Please see our Reporting Animal Cruelty page for details.

       NOTE: In 2009, the Wisconsin State Legislature unanimously passed Act 90, a law regulating dog breeders and sellers in our state. Since Act 90/s.173.41, the WI Dog Seller Program went into effect in June 2011, MANY breeders and sellers have been regulated and have either given up the business OR have come into compliance under ACT 90. If you have personally encountered any problems with any Wisconsin dog seller, please see our How To File a Complaint With the WI Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection page.


I am sometimes asked, "Why do you spend so much of your time and money talking about kindness to animals when there is so much cruelty to men?"
I answer: "I am working at the roots."
                — George T. Angell


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