The Sad Truth About Animal Hoarding

There is an animal cruelty crisis going on somewhat unnoticed in the United States, the case of animal hoarding. Over the past 4 years the number of animal hoarding cases has more than doubled at 3,500 new cases. A quarter of a million animals suffer from its effects annually.

Animal Hoarding – Definition

Animal hoarders are people who keep abnormally large numbers of animals without providing for their basic care. On average, a typical animal hoarding case involves 71 animals. In some cases, one person will hoard hundreds of animals who suffer from malnutrition and untreated medical conditions, including ones caused by a lack of basic hygiene. The most common animals involved in hoarding situations are cats, followed by dogs. Almost three-quarters of the offenders are single women. Over 40 percent of object hoarders will also hoard animals. Due to the psychological component of hoarding, simply taking animals from offenders does not solve the problem. Nearly one hundred percent will be repeat offenders. To rehabilitate the offenders, their reason for hoarding must first be addressed. Three types of animal hoarders have been identified:

  1. Overwhelmed caregiver: initially provides adequate care but slowly becomes more than they can handle. They may be socially isolated, but are typically willing to accept social intervention and help.
  2. Overactive rescuer: difficulty saying no to an animal in need, sometimes beyond their means. They actively acquire animals and believe no one else is capable of caring for them. During this process, they build a network of enablers who give them animals and validation. Sometimes accepting help can be difficult because they feel they are the animal’s best chance.
  3. Exploiter: takes in animals to serve their own needs, and are typically indifferent to any harm caused. They typically reject authority figures and intervention.
A victim of animal hoarding.

Photo source: ASPCA

Animal hoarding is included under most states’ animal cruelty laws. In Louisiana, LSA-R.S. 14:102 – .27 covers the state’s provisions for animal cruelty. Cruelty is defined as an act where unnecessary pain or suffering is caused or allowed. Under this legislation, unjustifiably failing to provide an animal with proper food, water, shelter, or veterinary care is classified as animal cruelty. In the case of many animal hoarding situations, many of the animals’ basic needs are not being met and they suffer from treatable medical conditions. Many who advocate for animal welfare say the sentences aren’t enough to curb the issue. The law’s maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine and 6 months of incarceration. Enforcement can also be difficult, as most states require the prosecutor to be the one to press cruelty or neglect charges against individuals. Multiple steps are involved, which can complicate and slow down the process. The police must be contacted, and then investigate and determine if there is a questionable situation before taking it to the prosecutor for further investigation. This could mean the animals remain in a questionable situation for a longer period of time. Each parish typically sets their own slightly different standards of care. However, it is asked if you are concerned about the welfare of an animal, you contact local animal authorities.

Making a Change

The Louisiana Animal Welfare Commission (LAWC) was formed in 2001 to ensure and promote the proper treatment and well-being of animals. It is a volunteer group of law enforcement and animal professionals (veterinarians, rescue organizations, breeders) who assist with animal control enforcement and prosecution, lost animal recovery, pet overpopulation reduction efforts, and impoundment inspections. One of their major accomplishments is making it easier to report suspected incidences of animal cruelty or neglect. By submitting a request through their website, situations of concern can be referred for investigation right away. They have also teamed up with the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” program: you can use their “My Mobile Witness” app to report suspected cases of animal hoarding or abuse. Additionally, LAWC offers educational programs for law enforcement personnel regarding cruelty investigations. They also assist local animal welfare efforts by having a cage/pen loan program. This allows animals in questionable situations, like hoarding or disasters, to be removed quicker and cared for appropriately as soon as possible.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund is a group that advocates for legislative change and enforcement. According to their 2015 survey of animal protection laws, Louisiana ranks in the top tier. However, most states do not have a specific definition for animal hoarding, meaning where it falls on the cruelty and neglect spectrum can be at the judge’s discretion. ALDF suggests that all suspected cases of animal cruelty including hoarding be reported to local animal welfare authorities. Locally, you can contact Jefferson Parish Animal Control at 504-349-5111 on the West Bank or 504-736-6111 on the East Bank. Orleans Parish Humane Law Enforcement can be reached at 504-368-5191, ext. 100 or