⋅What is Animal Hoarding?⋅
Approximately 40 percent of people who hoard “things” also hoard animals, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Almost all animal hoarders are kind-hearted people who truly believe they are helping animals.
While their intentions are good, these good intentions pave the way to the hell in which these animals are forced to live.
One or two strays, usually cats and dogs, turns into dozens very quickly. In the end, animals “rescued” by the hoarder suffer far worse unintentional neglect and abuse, and for significantly longer periods of time, than they would on the streets or in other kinds of abusive situations in which they would die more quickly.
Animals in a hoarding situation often live severely abused and neglected for years.
Animal hoarders differ from the “normal” kind-hearted person who takes in a few strays. First, animal hoarders feel a compulsive need to take in multiple animals in order to care for them, and they are unable to stop taking them in. Second, they are unable to provide even minimal care for the animals, who live in a filthy and overcrowded environment, lacking proper nutrition and veterinary care.
Sickness and Disease
Hoarded animals are so severely infested with parasites like ticks and fleas that they are often anemic from loss of blood and have to be euthanized. Many also suffer life-threatening respiratory infections from lack of care and from breathing the highly toxic ammonia build-up in their environment, which is a result of the hoarder’s inability to clean up the enormous amount of waste produced by dozens of animals.
The floors and surfaces of a typical animal hoarder’s home are covered in animal feces several layers deep.
Carpets, upholstery, subflooring, and linens are soaked with urine, which produces the deadly ammonia.
We cleaned a hoarding site in Tampa, Florida, where the hoarder initially used a child’s hard plastic swimming pool, shoved into the corner of her kitchen, as a litter box for her 30-plus cats. However, she never cleaned or changed the litter, and the cats began using the piles of old newspapers stacked all over the house, the paper and food garbage covering the kitchen counters, and the sinks and bathtubs, also full of trash, to eliminate waste.
The feces and urine had never been cleaned from the surfaces in her home until we arrived approximately two years after the hoarding had gotten out of control.
Cat waste was several inches thick in places. We had to wear chemical-spill boots, Tyvec suits, and ventilated respirators to enter the home.
Most of the animals also suffer from severe malnutrition and even starvation, open sores, dental disease, and a host of other ailments related to neglect and severe overcrowding.
In addition to the misery of parasite infestation, starvation, and disease, these animals literally live in squalid conditions. They live in their own waste and share their environment with the dead and decaying corpses of other animals.
We have never cleaned an animal-hoarding site without finding multiple dead and decomposing animals rotting under mounds of garbage and behind furniture and appliances.
We cleaned a site in Columbia, South Carolina, where the hoarder had stored over 15 dead cats inside a broken, unplugged refrigerator. When our technician opened the refrigerator, the shock of what he saw together with the stench made his knees buckle.
The hoarder told us that she couldn’t bear to part with her beloved kitties, even though they were dead. She broke down and sobbed as we packaged them in bio-waste containers and removed them from the home.
An additional 8 decaying cats, of which the hoarder was completely unaware, were found under piles of trash throughout the home. In addition to these 23 dead cats, animal control had already removed 19 living cats before we arrived, only 6 of whom survived the ordeal. The remaining 13 were so severely malnourished and sick that they had to be euthanized.
Hoarded animals suffer profound stress because they cannot get away from each other the way pets in a normal home can.
They often fight for food and territory. They must eat, mate, bear young, and exist in unnaturally close contact with other animals. They are denied healthy socialization and meaningful interaction with human companions and suffer from lack of exercise and stimulation.
Hoarded animals are rarely neutered or spayed. Therefore, their population grows exponentially. The animals transfer parasites and diseases to each other.
In a home we cleaned near St. Augustine, Florida, we found five new-born kittens dead in the attic.
We learned that their mother, whose eye was infested with maggots and was hanging out of its socket, was taken earlier by animal control. She was so malnourished that she couldn’t nurse her babies. They died of starvation. Their mother had to be euthanized.
Animal hoarders find animals in a number of ways. They take in strays; they search the Internet for unwanted animals; they go to shelters and adopt animals to save them from being euthanized.
The devastating effects of animal hoarding reach far beyond the immediate environment of the hoarder and the hoarded animals. Animal hoarding affects the whole community. Severe parasite infestation spreads throughout the community. If the hoarded animals come in contact with animals outside the hoard, disease spreads throughout the community. Once the hoarder is discovered, the community is suddenly burgeoning with dozens, even hundreds, of animals in its shelters who need immediate critical care.
Some sobering statistics about animal hoarding:
- At least 250,000 animals are affected every year.
- 80% of animal hoarders have sick, dying, and dead animals inside and around their homes.
- Up to 2,000 new cases of animal hoarding are discovered in the United States every year.
Because animal hoarding environments are always contaminated with decomposing garbage and food, rodent and insect droppings, feces and urine from animals, and dead, decaying animals, we urge you to call Advanced Bio Treatment to help with the cleanup. We make sure that the environment is thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, and decontaminated, and we are always respectful, patient, and compassionate throughout the difficult process.