Animal hoarding is a complex public health issue that is widely misunderstood and affects the animals and humans involved. Collecting animals is a symptom of underlying issues that cannot be appropriately addressed without also focusing on the needs of the hoarder. For this reason, animal hoarding interventions are most effective when utilizing a collaborative approach between service agencies. Long term monitoring is crucial in these cases. The ASPCA Cruelty Intervention Advocacy Program works with clients to find the best possible resolution for the animals involved, including include spay/neuter procedures, veterinary care, removal from the home and environmental improvements to the home.
Since 2010, the CIA program has worked on over 150 cases in the five boroughs of New York City, and has assisted more than 4,000 animals. In addition to helping the animals involved, the program links animal hoarders to social service agencies that can provide counseling, deep cleaning, subsidized meals and case management.
What is involved in a typical animal hoarding case?
The CIA program encounters a variety of animal hoarding cases. Some involve overwhelmed caregivers with unaltered animals that reproduce and create a population explosion, to animal rescuers who continue to take in animals even when they don’t have the capacity or ability to see that the situation has become harmful. An animal hoarder can be male or female and range in age from young adult to the elderly. There is no set number of animals that defines an animal hoarder; the CIA program has assisted people with as few as ten animals to those with more than 100 animals. A common theme among animal hoarders is lack of insight that their home environment may be detrimental to the health of the animals and people residing there.
CIA team members work to build trust and cultivate relationships with animal hoarders, providing veterinary care, spay/neuter operations and removing animals when appropriate. Cases remain open and the team actively monitors the situation once it has been stabilized to ensure that no new animals are brought into the home and that the animal hoarder stays connected to other resources.
What happens to animals surrendered to the CIA program?
Animals are voluntarily surrendered to the CIA program and brought to the ASPCA Animal Hospital or partner veterinary clinics for full medical and behavioral evaluations. The animals often suffer from medical conditions such as fleas, ear mites, ticks, mange, upper respiratory infection and parasites. It’s difficult to treat these conditions in an overcrowded home, and most animal hoarders don’t have the resources or capacity to resolve illnesses. These animals are often under socialized and fearful. On the other hand, they are usually very friendly with other cats and dogs since they are generally housed together.
What should people know about hoarders?
Animal hoarding is a serious issue that affects many animals over a long period of time. Early intervention allows for the best possible outcome for the animals and humans involved, so reporting hoarding situations is essential. Hoarding situations may go unreported for fear that the people will get in trouble or that the animals will be taken away. Animal hoarding situations are not resolved without intervention and will only get worse, with a larger number of animals at risk of suffering.
If you are in New York City and you know someone who you suspect is hoarding animals, call or email the ASPCA’s Cruelty Intervention Advocacy program at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-876-7700, ext. 4490. If you are in another part of the country, please read our Reporting Cruelty FAQ to find out where to report hoarding in your area.