Animal hoarding is when someone keeps a higher-than-normal number of animals in their home without having the resources needed to provide them with sufficient food, shelter, and other basic necessities. As such, it tends to be very detrimental to both the animals and the animal hoarders, as shown by the horror stories that are reported by the news on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the people who engage in animal hoarding are often in serious denial about what they are doing, thus making it that much more difficult for them and their animals to get the assistance that they need.
Due to this, it is important for people to know the potential signs of animal hoarding. For example, a lot of animal hoarders don’t have a clear idea of the number of animals in their home, which is a sure sign that they have lost control of the situation. Likewise, such individuals often live in homes that smell of ammonia, show feces and urine that haven’t been cleaned up, and exhibit other signs of deterioration. Having said that, the most obvious sign would be a large number of animals that are some combination of sick, emaciated, and not well-socialized.
What Is Institutional Animal Hoarding?
It is important to note that there is more than one form of animal hoarding. For instance, there is institutional animal hoarding, which is when people engage in animal hoarding as a nonprofit rather than as private individuals. This is a huge problem, not least because the existence of a nonprofit provides them with a measure of cover that makes it more difficult for interested parties to uncover what is going on. Of course, there are potential signs of institutional animal hoarding in the same way that there are potential signs of its standard counterpart. In particular, if would-be volunteers and other members of the public are discouraged from visiting a nonprofit’s facilities, that should be concerned serious cause for concern. Certainly, it is possible for nonprofits to have good reasons for such policies.
However, it can also suggest that it has something to hide, particularly when combined with other potential signs of animal hoarding. One excellent example would be that the animals that have been entrusted to the nonprofit are either never or almost never adopted out. Other excellent examples range from a focus on getting more and more animals to a very substandard level of care for the animals that have been taken in by the nonprofit. It isn’t uncommon for institutional animal hoarders to make false cries for help in regards to these problems. However, these cries tend to be paired with a complete failure to accept offers of advice as well as other forms of assistance from competent sources, with the result that there is no real improvement in their operations over time. Besides that, some institutional animal hoarders have been known to move their animals as well as their operations from community to community in an effort to stay ahead of parties curious about exactly what they are doing.
Irritatingly, institutional animal hoarders like to hide themselves beneath the mantle of the no-kill movement. Basically, shelters and other animal welfare organizations don’t have enough resources to take care of all of the cats, dogs, and other animals out there. As a result, they euthanize some of their animals in an effort to minimize their suffering. Very understandably, there are some nonprofits that have adopted no-kill policies, which means that they offer the same services but promise to never euthanize their charges. Legitimate no-kill nonprofits have various ways to manage the same issues faced by their standard counterparts, with an excellent example being increasing their standards for taking in animals so that they can maximize the chances of these animals being adopted out. Meanwhile, there are some institutional animal hoarders that use no-kill policies to excuse the poor treatment of their animals, thus enabling them to turn their vices into virtues.
What Does the Study Say?
Institutional animal hoarding hasn’t received the same kind of attention as the kind of animal hoarding carried out by private individuals. However, less attention isn’t the same as no attention, as shown by a recent study conducted by a Toronto Humane Society researcher plus her colleagues from other organizations from other places. For starters, the study revealed that institutional animal hoarding might be even worse for the animals than non-institutional animal hoarding. Basically, the researchers looked at cats that were relinquished by both institutional and non-institutional cat hoarders, most of which were surrendered on a voluntary rather than non-voluntary basis. In both cases, the cats showed the usual signs of cat hoarding, with an excellent example being a lack of spaying and neutering.
However, it was interesting to note that the risk of getting an upper respiratory infection and the risk of getting a chronic upper respiratory infection were quite a bit higher for the cats that had been institutionally hoarded compared to the cats that had been non-institutionally hoarded. This is important because upper respiratory infections are associated with not just higher stress levels but also more overcrowding among cats, which has some rather interesting implications.
Besides this, the researchers also examined the outcomes for hoarded and non-hoarded cats. Curiously, this revealed that non-hoarded cats actually stayed for shorter periods of time with animal shelters and other animal welfare organizations. That might sound strange, but it makes sense because a bigger proportion of hoarded cats are younger cats with medical conditions that can be either treated or managed in some manner. In contrast, non-hoarded cats are likelier to have serious medical conditions as well as other problems that cannot be handled with the same kind of ease, thus making it that much more difficult for them to be adopted out.
In any case, the study suggests some interesting things for the concerned. For example, it suggests that more attention should be paid to institutional animal hoarding because it could be causing even more damage than its non-institutional counterpart. Likewise, the study suggests that the recovery of hoarded animals might not be such a bad thing for the hoarded animals considering their higher chances of being adopted out. This is particularly true because there are more options than just the traditional model of handling them, which creates even more possibilities when it comes to their well-being.
Image via ASPCA