It can be difficult, at least initially, to distinguish between legitimate animal rescuers and “hoarders.” What may begin as a refuge for a handful of homeless animals can over time become a highly unsanitary environment where animals live without food, water, exercise and veterinary care, including sterilization. These situations often come to light only when the situation has deteriorated to the point that the animals are suffering severe neglect or have died from untreated ailments or from starvation. Unfortunately, without intervention—both through law enforcement and court-mandated counseling—the hoarder typically will continue to take in more animals even when it is clearly beyond his or her means to care for them.
The ASPCA believes that hoarding endangers animals and frequently leads to their death. Therefore this practice should be treated as a violation of relevant animal cruelty and neglect laws. The ASPCA supports laws that would allow for intervention in hoarding cases before animals have deteriorated or died and would provide for the seizure of the animals and for court-ordered counseling for the hoarder. The ASPCA supports a multi-agency task force approach to hoarding that includes social services, animal control and law enforcement.
A person should be considered a hoarder if he/she:
- Has accumulated a large number of animals and fails to provide them with proper and adequate nutrition, sanitary living conditions and veterinary care, including spaying/neutering; or
- Fails to respond appropriately to the deteriorating condition of the animals, including disease, starvation or death; or
- Fails to respond favorably to substandard living conditions such as extreme overcrowding, the presence of excessive urine and feces and lack of sufficient ventilation.