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Treatment of Animal Hoarding

By Edited Feb 17, 2014 1 2

When you think of animal hoarding, you probably conjure a person who intends on abusing animals by simply not giving them up. They should, but they simply cannot. However, not many people look at animal hoarding as something that requires treatment. This is extremely untrue—most of the hoarding of animals stems from mental illness.

How To Treat Animal Hoarding?

First of all, when you look at the treatment of animal hoarding, it's not a simple thing. The treatment of animal hoarding victims—both animal and human—is essential to stopping the problem. You can take the animals away, but you must understand that animal hoarding is a compulsion. Those who have a problem with hoarding animals may also have an alternate mental illness such as OCD, hoarding problems with other objects, dysmorphic body disorder, or schizophrenia.

Treatment of animal hoarding starts off with the removal of the animals. The animals—which are usually cats or dogs, but can be other species as well—are taken away. They are then treated for any injuries, malnourishment, etc...that they might have and animal services/shelters attempt to find them homes. If they are not socialized well enough for humans or other animals, they are normally euthanized, much to their former caretaker's dismay. Treatment of animal hoarding may also include attempted socialization, assuming it is possible.

How About Treatment Of Animal Hoarding For People?

First of all, treatment of animal hoarding for humans starts primarily with therapy. The person is treated not only for their compulsion, but also for any other additional mental illness that might be affecting their compulsion. There are some cases in which the other mental illness IS the cause.

The person may also be allowed to have two or less animals (depending on the state and their take on the treatment of animal hoarding/whether or not they consider it a mental illness by law. It is not yet medically classified as such.) that they can take care of while recovering—and will have visits from a social worker or animal social worker in order to see how they are adjusting. Most of the time, these animals will be cats or dogs, although animals other than cats or dogs are common as well.

The treatment of animal hoarding may take years—it's not something that people can easily get help for nor something that can be easily treated, just like any other compulsion or obsessive disorder.

How Do I Tell if Someone Might Need Treatment of Animals Hoarding?

In all honesty, look at the Cat Lady from the Simpsons. Save for the babbling, she is an almost perfect example of someone who needs treatment of animal hoarding. First of all, she has an immense number of cats, most of which she has trouble caring for. She also has a secondary symptom—the hoarding of items and perhaps another mental illness. Most people in need of treatment of animal hoarding lose interest in their appearance—her disheveled clothing and her hair. Her socialization skills have also gone down—something that most animal hoarders do voluntarily so that they can care for their pets. She also has a relapse after a minor period of “normality” when Marge Simpson cleans out her house. This is another reason that treatment of animal hoarding takes so long—it's not easy to break.

If you find that someone you know might need be in need of treatment of animal hoarding, take the time to get them help by calling a social worker and your local animal shelter—they can't do it by themselves.



Jul 6, 2011 1:27am
This was a good, informative article. Unlike the people who simply overbuy, won't clean their houses, etc., I'm actually somewhat sympathetic to the animal hoarders only in the sense that I do understand there is some mental health issue at work here, and they are obviously grasping at these animals for some kind of vicarious repalcement for whatever is lacking in their lives. As you pointed out, however, in most cases the hoarders are loving these animals literally to death -- their inability to adequately care for them is certainly an issue. Overall, a well thought-out piece (and the writing is quality!)
Jul 6, 2011 11:50am
Thank you so much for bring this issue to our attention.

I'm a researcher for the series Confessions: Animal Hoarding, currently airing on Animal Planet that tells the stories of people overwhelmed by the number of pets they own. The problem is on the rise and affect communities across America.

If you are concerned about the health of animals in someone's care and suspect they may be hoarding them, we might be able to help.

Most animal hoarders don 19t see themselves as hoarders, and sometimes don 19t intentionally collect animals. Their relationship with their animals has threatened their relationships with friends and family.

Most of these situations aren 19t dealt with until they become criminal. This results in animals being euthanized by over-stressed shelters, and doesn 19t address the underlying psychological issues - meaning nearly 100% of people end up in the same situation again.

We are dedicated to finding comprehensive long-term solutions and believe therapy to be key to this. We can bring in experts to help people and their pets.

If you or someone you know needs help because animals have overrun their life, visit www.animalhoardingproject.com to learn more and submit their story. Alternatively, contact me directly at help@animalhoardingproject.com or toll-free at
1 -877-698-7387.

We will treat all submissions with confidentiality and respect.
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