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  Animal hoarding

  Issue

Hoarders
  Role of the RSPCA
  Take action
 

Issue

Animal hoarders own a high number of animals but are unable to provide adequate standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter and veterinary care. Hoarders often care about their animals deeply but they don't see or understand that their behaviour actually results in animal neglect. This neglect can involve cramped, poor living conditions and in extreme cases, starvation, illness or death.

The vast majority of animal hoarders exhibit a range of behaviours that are characteristic of mental illness. As a result, hoarders must be treated with compassion and respect in order to help solve the problem and stop this type of cruelty.

Hoarders are often in denial about their inability to provide appropriate care for their animals and typically believe that no-one else can care for their animals like they do. They are often hold the belief that if they seek help, or allow external intervention, their animals will be euthanased or taken away from them.


 

Hoarder profile

The RSPCA investigates incidents of hoarding on a case-by-case basis but there are often common factors amongst the cases:

    • Half of animal hoarders tend to live alone and may be socially isolated.
    • Up to 75% of animal hoarders may be older women.
    • The average number of animals kept by hoarders is 39.
    • Cats, dogs, horses, farm animals and birds are the most commonly hoarded animals.
When investigating animal hoarders, RSPCA inspectors often find:
    • Animals have overrun the property.
    • Filthy living conditions with animal matter accumulating in living areas.
    • Dead and/or sick animals in the households.
    • Non-functional household utilities.
    • Living areas crowded by inanimate objects, furniture, etc.

To help animals, we must help animal hoarders

Animal hoarding can affect the wider community. Apart from the hoarder and animals themselves, family, friends or neighbours of hoarders may be exposed to health problems that result from the poor conditions of the property. This is because crowded, confined animals in poor living conditions are more prone to disease and parasites. There are also noise considerations for close neighbours.

Those working in animal welfare, environmental health, social services, emergency services and mental health frequently work with hoarding cases, often involving animals.

Sadly, the biggest victims of animal hoarding cases are the animals themselves. Often they are deprived of food, water, sanitation and  veterinary care, all important things to remain healthy. As these animals are often kept in cluttered and confined environments, disease can spread quickly and aggressively and behavioral problems can develop.

During our investigations and following prosecutions, our Inspectorate and shelters work with local councils and mental health practitioners, offering practical advice and working to prevent these hoarders from re-offending. Working to encourage these hoarders to get mental health support is critical as the risk of re-offending is very high.
 

Role of the RSPCA

RSPCA Inspectors investigate all hoarding and cruelty offences. RSPCA Inspectors will gain permission to enter the property to assess and document the health and conditions of the animals, and to intervew the owner/s. A collaborative approach with other organisations occurs, particularly so persons with hoarding tendencies can access psychological support. Given the person involved in a case is willing to change their behavior, the RSPCA will work with the hoarder to:

    • Remove excess animals from the home.
    • Desex and treat those which can be safely returned to the hoarder.
    • Monitor the hoarder to prevent a re-offending and the acquisition of more animals.
    • Involve mental health services to treat the hoarder’s psychological problems.
In some cases, owners respond to advice from the RSPCA and implement the necessary changes to provide a healthy environment for their pets, or reduce the number of pets they own. In other cases, animals may be seized. If the hoarder refuses to cooperate, our Inspectors are sometimes forced to proceed with a criminal prosecution. A hoarder may be charged with animal cruelty and neglect and may face further fines or even a prison sentence. A court order may be imposed to limit the number of animals a hoarder can have in the house and allow the RSPCA to monitor the hoarder.

If animals are removed, the RSPCA and local authorities often work together on the difficult and hazardous task of cleaning up an animal hoarder’s home. This hazardous exercise can involve exposure to diseases such as hepatitis and tetanus and often requires the assistance of fire fighters and police. In extreme cases the local council must pay for biohazard professionals to handle the site. 

Sadly, many of the animals rescued from hoarders suffer from behavioural problems. The RSPCA does everything in its power to help provide these animals with second chances and thankfully with intensive rehabilitation, some of these animals can be rehomed.

Working collaboratively

Animal hoarding compromises the welfare of the animals and puts strain on the RSPCA, support services, other animal shelters and hoarders themselves.
The RSPCA prides itself upon working collaboratively with government, animal welfare, community and mental health organisations to achieve the best outcome for owners and their animals.

In 2009, the RSPCA initiated a working group of specialists from all areas involved in animal hoarder interventions. This group has met regularly to discuss strategies to reduce the incidence of animal hoarding and to establish a better understanding of the causes and treatment.
 

Take action

Animal hoarding is a serious community issue and we can only help prevent this cruelty with your support.

Report suspected hoarders to the RSPCA

Do you suspect someone in your community has a large number of animals and is unable to provide the care needed? Contact our Inspectorate to discuss your concerns.

Join the Animal Hoarding Working Group

If you work in an industry that is directly impacted by animal hoarders, you may be able to provide valuable insights as part of our Animal Hoarding Working Group. Contact the RSPCA Victoria Animal Welfare Policy Officer for more information.

Downloads

(source: www.health.vic.gov.au)


Key messages statement Responding to hoarding and squalor 2013 (135kb, pdf)

A practical resource for service providers - hoarding and squalor 2013 (4.2MB, pdf)

Take action
Report suspected hoarders to our Inspectors
P  03 9224 2222
Report online


Join our working group
Mhairi Roberts
Animal Welfare Policy Manager

P  03 9224 2285
 Email Mhairi



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