Hoarding and caring for a large number of animals are two different sets of conditions. Many who work or volunteer to care for large groups of animals often stay quiet on the topic of hoarding for fear of being viewed in the same light. Their concern bears merit, as many who do not work or live in this type of environment may perceive only a fine line differentiating the two. However, when we breakdown each of these mindsets it becomes clear that in place of the fine line there is a chasm.
There are several theories about the psychology of animal hoarding. The one constant trait throughout is that a person puts the wants of the self over the needs of the animals. Regardless of the reason, hoarders are people who collect animals as items for their own sense of security, irrespective of the consequences.
There are several easy ways to signify if animals are involved in a hoarding environment.
- There are more animals than actual living space. These dwellings are literally overrun with animals and would be construed as having an "infestation" at first glance.
- Hoarders do not place a value on training. There may be fecal debris throughout a dwelling or animals that behave in a feral manner.
- Look for animals that are underfed, ill, or dead. Hoarders do not put a premium on regularly feeding animals, seeking out veterinary care for the sick, or burying the dead. It is more important for them to have their "collection" than to have concern for their actual condition. As a glimmer into this mindset, the simplest comparison would be to think about dusty knickknacks on shelves.
- Hoarders may very well justify their actions under the guise of "caring for animals." Whether a hoarderís mindset rationalizes the behavior in this manner or not, the key component remains that actions speak louder than words. The best of intentions are meaningless unless responsibly acted upon.
- Successful caregivers have a support network in place. They often work in conjunction with animal shelters or rescue organizations and seek out volunteers.
- There is always a veterinarian involved. Ideally, one that is willing to instruct on the fundamentals along the way.
- Properly functioning dwellings have a firm and responsible capacity limit. They do not take in animals ad infinitum. The capacity number is not arbitrary and is derived from numerous factors.
- The responsible setup for dwellings that regularly take in new animals includes a main area for healthy animals, a quarantine area for new animals, and a sick room that is separate from both.
- There are always people around. A caregiverís function is quite different from that of an animal shelter. Whether the caregiverís animals are adopted out or not, basic training to learn how to properly interact with humans is necessary. People who work responsibly with a large number of animals understand that this time commitment is not optional.
- It is important to maintain a clean dwelling. There is equally as much work involved in sustaining a clean environment as there is in the actual care and tutelage of the animals. Cleanliness is important to keep perpetual illness at bay. Experienced caregivers understand that cleanliness is not optional.
- Many dwellings run on a timetable for feeding, bathing, medications, training, and personal interaction. The animals learn this routine creating a symbiotic relationship.
If you suspect animals are kept in a hoarded environment or know a caregiver struggling with the organization of their dwelling, here is further information on How to Help Stop Animal Hoarding.