Hoarders are overwhelmingly attached to their dogs. Most likely, though, it’s OCD. Let’s talk more about those results. I have a small farm On 18 acres and horses, goats, chickens, bunnies, etc as well. In fact, according Jacey Burch of Local 10 News in Florida, many cities do not have pet or animal limit laws on the books at all. Even when states do not have any specific laws on animal hoarding, there can be municipal ordinances. Many animal rights activists think the real number is much higher than that. As you might expect, the overwhelming amount of animal waste also makes it virtually impossible to prepare and store food safely. How Many Animals are Too Many in Animal Hoarding Situations. Animals collected range from cats and dogs to reptiles, rodents, birds, exotics and even farm animals. Animal hoarding is covered implicitly under every state’s animal cruelty statute, which typically requires caretakers to provide sufficient food, water and veterinary care. Cats are the most common animal-hoarding victims. And we all need to be alert to the problem of hoarding. Hoarding is animal abuse. With compulsive hoarding disorder becoming the subject of a lot of research and officially being classified as its own disorder in the DSM-V as of 2013, we have come to understand much more about compulsive hoarding disorder in recent years. Compulsory psychological help should be mandatory in all states, not just Illinois. So, they go with the one charge they know they can prove, the system isn’t burdened, and the offender gets off relatively lightly. I’ve talked about breed bans in The Truth About Dog Bites and Should You Get a License for Your Dog, and I do worry that when governments at any level start telling citizens how many dogs they can have, breed bans may be the next step. Animal hoarders are subject to prosecution if they fail to provide a proper level of care for their animals. The number of animals found in hoarding cases range from dozens to several hundreds, with extreme cases involving over a thousand animals. As of 2013, animal hoarding has been recognized as a mental illness and is listed in the DSM-5 under “Hoarding Disorder.” Animal hoarding has a negative impact on the animals. Normally, this compulsion starts out as wanting to care for as many animals as possible. Although it is considered animal cruelty, the prosecution process is lengthy, difficult, and usually not very effective, as hoarding is a psychological issue. Many animal rights advocates believe that the state laws don’t go nearly far enough. But if you think you know of an instance of hoarding, you can help. They continue to live in horribly unsanitary conditions, and convince themselves that their dogs are not sick, not starving, and do not need veterinary care (which they likely cannot afford in any case). The animals live in unhealthy and stressful conditions. However, five is the most dogs I’ve ever had at one time, so I don’t think that exactly qualifies me as a “crazy dog person.” If I’d had 25 dogs instead of five, of course, you might reasonably question my mental stability. Feces and urine accumulate because of the sheer impossibility of attending to the elimination needs of so many animals. Persistence, despite this failure, in accumulating and controlling animals; There are many similarities between animal hoarding and object hoarding, including the common side effects of the behavior: a cluttered, non-functional and sometimes dangerously unclean living space; social alienation; and denial/refusal to seek help. Hoarders keep abnormally large numbers of animals for whom they do not provide even the most basic care. So hoarding doesn’t just harm the hoarder and his or her animals, it adversely affects everyone in the household. If you cannot afford to feed yourself decent food because you are buying cat food, you have too many. Repeated offenses can result in the offender being charged with a higher level of misdemeanor, which would carry a higher penalty. I agree with him. In a majority of documented animal hoarding cases, most pet owners believe that they are helping their animals by keeping them away from animal shelters and kill shelters. Veterinary attention is also virtually non-existent when large numbers of dogs are crowded, and disease proliferates. Animals must also be housed in a manner that does not result in harm – in other words, they must not be over-crowded, and must be protected from the elements. The problem with this, though, is that it does not take into consideration the level of care being provided to the animals. Does anyone know if there is any set number of cats that is now considered illegal and will result in charges being brought against you? The lack of sanitation in the home can lead to any number of human health problems, including respiratory issues, parasite infection, and general lack of hygiene. They don’t just neglect themselves – they neglect their children, and elderly people in the home. It’s also a slippery slope. This issue is multifaceted and we have to take into account mental health, safety of the animals and the person involved, even public health safety. The trouble with this is that hoarders don’t usually change their ways, and in the absence of mandatory psychological counselling, they don’t get the help they need to change, supposing they actually want to. Even in municipalities where there are limits on how many pets one can own, it is often possible to obtain a permit to keep multiple animals. Serious hoarders also frequently fail to pay their utility bills because every penny they have has to go to feeding their dogs (who are still not getting enough to eat), leading to a lack of electricity and running water. Even when there are so many dogs that it becomes impossible to maintain a decent level of sanitation, properly nourish them all, and provide veterinary care, even when the hoarder’s own health has become compromised, and even when disease, starvation and death occur, hoarders will cling to the belief that they are providing a good standard of care for their dogs. Some states, though (New Hampshire and California, for instance), consider failing to provide an animal with food, drink, and shelter to be a felony. As previously stated, prosecuting hoarders can be problematic. The dogs don’t get even the bare minimum of care that they need; they are filthy, parasite-infested, and living in their own waste. Recent research suggests that nearly 1 in 5 compulsive hoarders have non-hoarding OCD symptoms. Insects and rodents are also attracted to a property that has succumb to animal hoarding. Hoarding is, indisputably, animal cruelty, whether it is intentional or not. Animal hoarding has a negative impact on the occupants of the house. The hoarders continue to try to convince themselves that nothing is wrong. I thought that hoarding would be having more along the lines of 60+ cats. Or is it the number of cats in proportion to the size of your house? But I’ve also known a man with only four pets whose living situation was such that “hoarding” became a reasonable description. And it does not provide for a ban on future ownership of animals. They are out of touch with any kind of reality as we know it, and they have no insight into the harm that they are doing to their animals. Here are a few red flags if you suspect someone you know is hoarding cats or any type of animal:. Although it’s not a specific, diagnosable mental illness in and of itself, most experts agree that hoarding is evidence of a psychological disorder, or more than one disorder. Often, though, it can be a simple matter of spaying and neutering the animals, and making sure that they have proper veterinary care. Animal hoarding doesn’t just affect the animals involved. Every year 3,500 animal hoarders come to the attention of authorities. Which brings me to this explanation: Hoarding isn’t about a number. Many hoarders collect items in response to anxiety or trauma as a coping mechanism. Some estimate that as many as 1 in 4 people with OCD also have compulsive hoarding. The infestations can also spread to adjacent homes and other buildings. They can investigate the situation, and might even be able to get the hoarder the help they need. Animals “collected” by hoarders range in species from cats and dogs to reptiles, rodents, birds, exotics and even farm animals. Many rescued dogs are malnourished and dehydrated,and may also be emotionally damaged because of the need to compete against other dogs for whatever food is available. After all, it is certainly possible for people to take care of many dogs at once, and an arbitrary number does nothing to forestall cruelty. It is important for animal hoarders to remember that their unsanitary homes are hazardous not only to themselves but to their pets as well. The Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act includes a definition of animal hoarders, and mandates psychological counselling for offenders. If it was 30 cats in a trailer, then yes, of course it’s too many. Instead, deep cleaning case managers can only suggest how to sanitize the affected property and how to avoid biohazards from causing the spread of dangerous diseases. Of course breeders do have more dogs than most of us, but that’s because dogs are the cornerstone of their business. Obviously, not everyone who has a lot of dogs is a hoarder. Then they just go back to hoarding. Hoarding isn’t about a person who rescues animals and is unaware that they’re getting in over their head – hoarding is about a psychological condition. Hoarders will also likely keep all manner of things, including stacks of newspapers, clothing, and other items. No specific number of pets defines a hoarder of animals over a regular pet owner. Hoarders are not just too unable to care for their dogs; they are also incapable of taking care of themselves, or any humans who may live with them. Gary Patronek maintains that limiting the number of animals one may own is bound to be opposed by breeders, rescue groups, and other organizations concerned with animal welfare. I want that for dogs, hoarders, and all of us who desire nothing more than a better world for the animals we love. Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University, 5 Most Common Dog Training Mistakes (Video). The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates that a quarter of a million animals suffer from hoarding every year. Hoarding alone is not a violation of the Act, though – harm must be proven. Obviously, you don’t need me to tell you that dog hoarders are mentally ill. It’s obvious. You can also offer to help walk the dogs, and maybe even bring over a bag of dog food from time to time. Sometimes, the stress of trying to look after so many dogs, coupled with the effort that it takes to maintain the delusion that nothing is wrong, spills over into actual abuse. Often, the charge is a single count of animal cruelty – in other words, whether someone has neglected or starved just one dog, or 100 dogs, there may be only one count against them. One, in fact, had been caged in the basement of the home, and was unable to stand. Occasionally, a hoarder will keep exotic or wild animals. One such example is ALDF v. Conyers, a case in which more than 100 dogs were seized. Basic hygiene is neglected. They are not deliberately cruel – in fact, they love their animals very much, and may even believe, despite their circumstances, that they are providing proper care. So, how many dogs is too many? His tongue was also sticking out of his mouth because his jaw had so badly deteriorated. While hoarder personality traits and demographics vary widely, Even after the dogs have been rescued, the effects of hoarding can have long-term effects. You might not think that someone who is so invested in their dogs could be intentionally cruel to any living creature, but this often happens. In addition, when a person does have too many animals or pets, the assistance of a trained, experienced professional pet hoarding cleanup specialist will be needed. Hoarding cleaning is the first step in the process of ensuring the safety of pets and owners that may be trapped in their own homes. If you cannot afford to keep all of the cats in clean litter, with clean food, you have too many. A desire to protect animals spirals out of control, and the hoarder tries to take on responsibilities that are well beyond anyone’s reasonable ability. This means, unfortunately, that often law enforcement has to become involved. The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium defines the problem this way: There is an accumulation of a large number of animals. Many animal hoarders report that they were abused as children, so this is the basis for the theory that animal hoarding may go hand in hand with attachment disorder. Hoarders, sadly, don’t, and that’s something that we should all be concerned about. This is particularly true in cases of animal hoarding, where a person takes in far too many animals than can be cared for and becomes virtually blind to their suffering. Unlike Illinois, though, Hawaii does not mandate psychological counselling. Often, addiction and hoarding also go hand in hand. Hawaii, however, specifically prohibits hoarding, and sets a specific number – any more than 15 animals (dogs and cats only are considered; there are no provisions for birds or reptiles) constitutes hoarding if the animals are not properly cared for, and can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or as a criminal offense. In all cases of animal hoarding, the hoarder believes that the animals are better off … Hoarders are not often able to provide basic care for their dogs, and the result is disease at best, and death at worst. The person responsible fails to take action to correct the deteriorating condition of the animals and their housing. The dogs were in horrible condition. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO. For instance, in Alto, Georgia, hoarding is specifically prohibited. The Real Face of Animal Hoarding. They may also be very resistant to efforts by the ASPCA to help them achieve a manageable level when it comes to the number of dogs in the home. These insects and vermin not only carry their own diseases, but they can also compromise the structural integrity of a property by using building materials such as wood, carpet, padding, wood, and metal to build nests and consume as food. With all this attention being afforded to hoarders of all stripes (reference a veritable media explosion on the discussion of animal and non-animal hoarding), I've noticed a trend towards a demonized depiction of the so-called, "crazy cat lady." ... Quality of life is imperative at all stages of life for animals! The actual number of dogs is not all that relevant – it’s the behavior involved. Individuals suffering from this disorder will fill their homes to the brim with many different animals including dogs, cats, reptiles, rodents, birds, and in some cases even farm animals. The offender may also be held liable for the costs of housing, feeding, and obtaining veterinary care for seized animals. In some municipalities, people are limited as to how many pets they can keep. A basic rule of thumb when determining if a person is suffering with animal hoarding is to decide if the owners have control of the home or the pets have control of the home. Rehabilitation is hardly ever an option, so the animals that the hoarder actually loved end up being put to sleep. I am the first person to admit that, from time to time, I have probably had more dogs in my home than the typical person has, simply because I have a great deal of difficulty saying “No” when someone tells me about a dog that desperately needs a home. In fact, according Jacey Burch of Local 10 News in Florida, many cities do not have pet or animal limit laws on the books at all. It’s not all bad news, though. Often, insects and rodents find this a very pleasing environment, and this just makes matters that much worse. Whether a person has two animals or two dozen animals should be irrelevant. A first offense is a misdemeanor, and subsequent offenses can be prosecuted as a Class 4 felony. Hoarding is a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and may be accompanied by other symptoms of OCD. Many studies of animal hoarding report recidivism rates from 60% to 100%. Basically, hoarders have two characteristics. First of all, you can contact your local ASPCA or Humane Society. It also threatens people living in the home where hoarding is taking place, and their neighbors. In as much as 80% of hoarding cases, animals are found dead or in severe condition. Hoarding seems to be strongly connected to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and is sometimes considered a type of OCD. When a person hoards animals of pets, there is going to be a significant amount of waste, hazardous materials that can cause harm to people who come into contact with it. Hoarders are most likely mentally ill to one degree or another. How do you know how many pets are “too many”? Most commonly, the function of hoarding or caching is to store food in times of surplus for times when food is less plentiful. Animal hoarding is “collecting” large numbers of animals – most commonly dogs and cats – in one place, under the pretense of saving or protecting them. The courts are not burdened by multiple charges, and hoarders do not get away with having only one charge leveled against them when, in fact, several animals have been harmed. Dogs are considered geriatric when they reach about 8 years of age, and geriatric dogs need exams, blood work, and urinalysis at least twice yearly. Rather, it’s about a compulsive need to acquire animals that reaches an overwhelming state, resulting in unintentional animal neglect or abuse. Animal Hoarding: The hoarding of pets and animals is believed to be a mental illness. In most states, this means that each animal must have access to enough food and water to ensure good health, and that medical care must be sought when necessary. Behavioral issues are also rampant. Hoarding or caching in animal behavior is the storage of food in locations hidden from the sight of both conspecifics (animals of the same or closely related species) and members of other species. Finding the correct course of action to ensure a safe and effective recovery process can be achieved by asking for help from an animal hoarding professional. Sometimes, hoarders are very resistant to getting help, and the only way to ensure the health and well-being of the dogs is to have them seized. I know my limit. Compulsive hoarding is also considered a feature of obsessive compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) Although any animal could be hoarded, cats and dogs are more commonly the victims. It’s not rational, and it’s not sensible, but for the hoarder, it is very deniable. Judges are reluctant to see multiple charges, because several counts end up “clogging” the system, and also because it is difficult to prove each individual charge.So, cases involving a single count are processed faster, and often result in a conviction, but they do nothing to highlight the seriousness of multiple instances of cruelty. Prosecutors may request that the offender be prohibited from keeping animals in the future, or at least for a certain period of time. Hoarders, of course, fear losing their animals, so they don’t ask for help. However, the situation and the way the pets are cared for are the determining factors. The hoarder may more easily form close bonds with animals rather than people. Hoarders may also resort to very dangerous methods of heating their homes when their electricity is cut off, putting everyone in the home in danger. Very few states actually consider animal cruelty to be a felony, and the penalties may be no harsher for multiple cases of animal neglect than for a single case. Often, people do terrible things for what they think are very good reasons, and much of the time, we need to treat hoarders as compassionately as we treat our dogs. In some instances, the court may also order that the hoarder undergo psychological counselling. If you could spend 24 hours a day cleaning your house and still could not keep up, you have too many. It is the internal and compulsive need to not only have animals in your home, but to also control them. Animal hoarding is a complex issue where someone is housing too many pets that they can adequately care for. There is no direct evidence that proves the link between hoarding and any other specific mental disorder, but enough anecdotal evidence that would seem to strongly suggest a link. So, how many cats is too many? What is at issue is the inability of the owner to take proper care of the dogs, and the refusal to admit that the animals are in poor health and the home is toxic. For every single charge that is brought, prosecutors must offer proof of the harm done. Those animals are not receiving minimal standards of care, including sanitation. Failure to address infestations and their negative effects on the property can result in structural damage, causing serious bodily harm to the building’s occupants. Dog hoarding is a serious problem. Hoarding is about not being able to give that quality of life to all pets in a person’s care. They feel compelled to acquire animals, and the compulsion does not go away even when it should be obvious to any reasonable person that it is going to be impossible to care for so many. Children who have been abused frequently have difficult forming relationships with humans, so they rely on animals for love and companionship. And that no one will ever feel that they can’t ask for help, and be treated kindly. By the time hoarded dogs are rescued, there is often no alternative other than euthanasia. Air quality suffers, often to the point where rescuers need to wear protective clothing and breathing apparatus in order to remove the animals from the home. You might offer to help find a home for some of the dogs if the elderly person is overwhelmed trying to care for all of them. Whether a person has two animals or two dozen animals should be irrelevant. In most states, failure of care is considered to be an act of omission, not commission, and, as such, is a misdemeanor. Childhood trauma may also be a factor in hoarding behavior. Broken walls, no electricity or running water, fire hazards, and visible rodents and other non-pet animals are a few of the characteristics of homes within hoarding level 5. Again, call the ASPCA or Humane Society, or even the police. In most states, individual charges will not be laid because of the burden on the system. I’ve always been worried that I might cross the line and be considered a hoarder. Some of the best dogs I’ve ever had have been “freebies,” in fact. Sometimes, a situation just gets out of control, and well-meaning seniors are hesitant to seek assistance out of fear that their beloved animals will be taken and put to sleep. Animal hoarding can be a very difficult subject to address. They may even believe that they are “dog whisperers” who have an almost supernatural ability to communicate with their dogs – and anyone who tries to tell them otherwise is attempting to cause harm to them and their dogs. This may not sound all that different from the laws in other states, but what it means is that prosecutors can charge hoarders in Hawaii with a single count that actually covers all the animals in the hoarder’s possession. Hawaii, however, specifically prohibits hoarding, and sets a specific number – any more than 15 animals (dogs and cats only are considered; there are no provisions for birds or reptiles) constitutes hoarding if the animals are not properly cared for, and can … So, where is the cut-off between someone who is simply dog-obsessed, and a person who is a hoarder? Hoarding level 5, the most severe type of hoarding disorder, involves severe structural damage to the residence. To make matters worse, it’s not always just animals that are being hoarded. Animal hoarding is actually a much deeper issue than just having lots of pets. The hoarder lashes out at children and aging parents in addition to being unable to provide a suitable standard of care for them. Fortunately, there are signs to look out for when it comes to potential animal hoarders. Due to the many biohazards such as feces, urine, vomit, and other bodily fluids, pathogens and allergens can spread mercilessly throughout the home. The ammonia level in hoarding homes can be horrific, even after the home is aired out. Animal hoarding is a hoarding behavior characterized by an excessive need to keep as many animals as possible without providing the necessary minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, and shelter. These diseases can infect human beings, causing an epidemic that can been avoided by getting animal hoarding help and properly caring for these pets. If the hoarder is elderly, dementia could be at the root of the hoarding behavior, in which case Adult Protective Services may be able to provide help. The laws are woefully lacking, psychological help for hoarders virtually non-existent, and the results of hoarding horrific. The only way to stop hoarding is to prosecute, and this, as we shall see shortly, can be problematic. One of the many hoarding questions is, “How many animals are too many in hoarding situations?” In many cities, counties, and states in the US, there is no definitive legal answer. As previously mentioned, it is probably a variation on OCD, but it can also be an indication of an attachment disorder (an abnormal attachment to animals or an inability to bond with humans), and can also have its roots in dementia (we’ve all heard of the “crazy cat lady”), and even sometimes in addiction. Much of the time, rather than prosecute, officials will offer a plea bargain in exchange for the animals being turned over. Besides, hoarders are not likely to be all that concerned about the law – they’ll just keep their dogs inside, in even worse conditions than if they were visible, rather than be parted from their pets. Eighty percent of animal hoarders have diseased, dying, or … Anyone convicted of hoarding in Alto is prohibited for owning animals for a period of one year, and can be punished by means of a $1,000 fine and/or six months of jail time. At its most horrific, animal rescuers have entered homes to find it littered with corpses in various stages of decay, some even cannibalized by other starving dogs. Pet ownership vs. Hoarders often have difficulty organizing. It is important, though, to understand the issues that lead to hoarding. Of course, it’s not all good news, either, because that means that hoarders can claim to be breeders, and get a multiple pet exemption. Its not about numbers its about if a person can physically and financially care for the animals and if they are willing to care for the animals they have. As of the time of writing, only Hawaii and Illinois have laws that specifically relate to animal hoarding. 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