What is animal hoarding?
According to Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) publications, an animal hoarder “has been defined as an individual who accumulates a large number of animals, who fails to provide the animals with adequate food, water, sanitation, and veterinary care, and who is in denial about this inability to provide adequate care.” While some hoarders may insist they are operating a rescue or animal sanctuary, there will be a noticeable discrepancy: the number of animals that come in greatly exceeds the number of animals being adopted out, if any are at all. Most typically, individuals that hoard suffer from mental illness which impairs their ability to recognize or accept the harm and damage they are inflicting on animals or the safety issues in their environment. Without intervention, the recidivism rate for animal hoarders approaches 100% and longitudinal costs increase exponentially.
Is animal hoarding a crime, or a lifestyle choice?
The choice to live among animals is distinct from a hoarding situation. Not everyone who owns multiple animals is a hoarder – it is that failure to provide a reasonable standard of care and the hoarder’s inability to recognize their limitations and the extent of their own animals’ suffering that differentiates these individuals from legitimate breeders or rescue organizations.
Most notably, the animals in the possession of a hoarder will likely be suffering from some or all of the following conditions:
- Lack of adequate food and water, resulting in poor body condition or even emaciation
- Inadequate space for the number of animals
- Significant lack of sanitation, often with both humans and animals living in squalid conditions amongst excrement and urine that contributes to unhealthy or even toxic air quality in the home
- Evidence of untreated injuries or illnesses, often due to the financial distress experienced by the hoarder resulting from the number of animals
- Presence of dying, or already dead, animals in the home that may be unburied and/or unnoticed by the hoarder
Since Colorado does not have a specific hoarding statute, most hoarders that enter the legal system are prosecuted under existing animal cruelty laws. In addition to acts of animal cruelty hoarding cases also pose significant health, environmental and safety hazards requiring substantial community resources to address. Animal hoarding is a complex, multifaceted issue that often requires the mobilization of multiple agencies to respond appropriately. When large numbers of animals (often in excess of 100) need to be removed, public health concerns emerge regarding the safety of the dwelling. Also the need for social and/or psychological services are required in tandem and local resources can be quickly exhausted.
The presence of other vulnerable individuals living in the home, such as dependent children or elders, both complicates and intensifies the need for timely intervention. Whilst there is no current evidence to support a link between physical violence toward animals, children or elders and hoarding behavior, the environmental safety conditions alone may warrant Child or Adult Protective Services be notified in conjunction with animal control and other relevant agencies.
If you suspect a case of animal hoarding in your community -please report it to law enforcement immediately .