Addressing Animal Hoarding in Your Community

We have all heard the tragic stories associated with animal hoarding behavior. Someone will discover that a distressed property is filled with animals--sometimes dozens or hundreds of them--that are not being appropriately cared for. 


As underfed and neglected animals are captured and removed from the home, it is not uncommon to find the remains of animals who have died in the days, weeks, and months before the hoarding situation was discovered.


These stories often leave us feeling heartbroken for suffering animals and worried about the people in our community whose mental health issues cause them to hoard animals. Animal hoarding is also a health and safety risk to our communities. 


What causes animal hoarding to occur?

Animal hoarding is a behavior with mental illness as its root cause. There are several working theories about what causes people to acquire more and more animals, whether it is through extreme “rescuing” behavior, uncontrolled breeding of pets, or an attempt to sell puppies and kittens. 


These theories include:


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Animal hoarding as a result of OCD can prompt people to feel an overwhelming urge to “rescue” animals in an attempt to care for them. Their desire to provide care may exceed their ability to do so, and yet they compulsively acquire animals with the intention of helping. 


Addictive Behaviors

Because the majority of animal hoarders also hoard possessions, many researchers believe that addictive behaviors are one of the overlapping realities of these two related conditions. 


Focal Delusional Disorder

This disorder prevents the hoarder from recognizing the suffering of the animals under their care. It explains why the animal hoarder will insist that their animals are well-cared for, even as an outsider can see that the animals are suffering, underfed, injured, and even dying. 

Attachment Model
This model suggests that these hoarders are attaching to animals instead of forming healthy relationships with other human beings. Often, animal hoarding begins after an individual experiences a major relational loss, such as a divorce or the death of a partner or loved one. 

The dangers of animal hoarding

Animal hoarding poses many different risks. It is not a simple issue with a simple solution, and it affects far more than just the hoarder themselves.

Of course, it is a risk to the well-being of the animals who are in the situation. Animals require adequate nutrition, clean housing, basic sanitation, and periodic vet care. Without these essentials, animals can suffer from starvation, illness, injuries, and death. 


The next group that is affected is the hoarder’s family. Minors who have no choice about where they live may be suffering in an unsafe and distressed property because of their parent or guardian’s hoarding behavior. Children can develop respiratory and skin issues from being exposed to animal droppings, unsanitary animal waste, fleas, and other environmental threats that are a result of an animal hoard.


Finally, the community itself can suffer from hoarding of any kind. Distressed properties are a problem for neighborhoods because they cause issues including:


  • Mold growth
  • Pest infestation
  • Structural damage
  • Fire hazards
  • Tripping hazards
  • Respiratory diseases and infections

When there is an animal hoarding problem in your neighborhood, you may also see reduced property values and increased home abandonment issues. 

Can a receivership help?

In short, yes. A receivership may be one of the essential steps to addressing the damage done to a distressed property because of an animal hoarding situation. 


A health and safety receiver is a legal representative, appointed by the court, to rehabilitate distressed properties. This is often an effective strategy to address animal hoarding because the receiver can bring the property back into compliance with code enforcement. When a receiver addresses a hoarding situation, the community becomes safer. 


Receivers are accustomed to dealing with extreme hoarding, including relocating occupants until the problem can be resolved. The goal is to work together with the property owner (and/or tenants), the animal control officers, and the court to resolve complicated problems and rehabilitate properties that others may have written off as unsalvageable. A receiver also knows how to determine if the animal hoarding conditions have made a property permanently uninhabitable. 


What to do if you are concerned about someone who is hoarding animals.

If you are concerned about a possible animal hoarding situation, your first step is to contact your local animal control agency. They will take down your concerns and investigate to determine if there is an animal hoarding problem that needs to be addressed. When in doubt, it is always best to contact animal control and ask them to look into it. You may be saving the lives of animals who are in a dangerous and unsanitary environment. 


Here at Griswold Law, we are also happy to answer questions about the receivership option and how that can be implemented in your community.

Contact Griswold Law today so that we can answer your questions and help make your community safer. 


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