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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County & Housatonic Valley CT

The Dark Side of Animal Rescue: Animal Hoarding is Real

Jun 05, 2018 02:13AM ● By Mary Oquendo

How does someone go from helping pets out of high-kill shelters and dangerous living conditions to being brought up on charges of animal cruelty? A dark and unfortunate reality of rescue is that one-quarter of all animal hoarding cases involve rescued animals. And many of these cases also include registered 501(c)3 nonprofits.

Before we continue, it’s important to take a moment to recognize and acknowledge the majority of pet rescuers.  The number of pets euthanized at shelters has been drastically reduced through their efforts, including education, fostering, and transferring animals from high-kill shelters to forever homes. It was estimated that over 20 million pets were euthanized every year at shelters in the 1970s. By 2008, that number was reduced to 3.7 million, and each year it gets smaller. That’s over an 80 percent reduction! So, great thanks are due to all those who have provided a rescue with a happy home.

Naturally, animal cruelty cases garner media attention; they tend to be high profile due to the sheer number of animals involved, and even more so when a pet rescuer is involved. The reality is that most people involved in rescues are only concerned with the well-being of the animal, while a hoarder cannot relate to the needs of a pet. And there’s where the key difference lies. 

What is Animal Hoarding?

According to the American Psychiatric
Association: “People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.”

In the case of animal hoarders, they are trying to save the lives of as many animals as they can without concerning themselves about the well-being of the pet.  For them it becomes all about the numbers, not the care.

How does this happen? Often, it starts out as a well-intentioned rescuer becomes overwhelmed and, rather than seeking assistance, plunges further down the rabbit hole. This person could have past trauma in their life, personality disorders, paranoia or depression, or a combination of related factors. In other cases, it is a result of predatory and selfish behaviors where animals are at their mercy. In both scenarios, the collected animals are likely to suffer. 

How do you recognize an animal hoarding situation? This person may:

1. Have more than the average number of pets.

2. Not meet minimum standards of nutrition, sanitation or even sheltering of these pets.

3. Be in denial of any problem.

4. Have a home that is deteriorating and smells of ammonia or feces.

5. Have pets that are lethargic or thin.

6. Become isolated from the community.

7. Not allow people to come see/drop off/ pick up animals at their home. 

What Can You Do To Help? 

Contact social services and humane law enforcement. They are equipped to handle hoarding situations. 

It can be hard for even the average person who is bombarded with “Time Is Almost Up For This Pet” ads and social media posts about animals being added to euthanasia lists at shelters. If someone has a personality disorder, such posts can become a nightmare waiting to happen. Being able to recognize and intervene in an actual or potential hoarding situation will help save more pets as well as the people who don’t know how to part with them. 

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki Master, advanced crystal master and certified master tech pet first aid instructor. She is the owner of Pawsitive Education and Spirited Dog Productions. She can be reached at See ad, page 57.

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