Veterinary Perspective on Animal Planet’s Confessions: Animal Hoarding

July 21, 2010

Photo of More Pleasant Type of Animal Hoarding

Photo credit Flickr Memotions showing the lighter side of animal hoarding.

With the success of reality television shows about hoarders (A&E’s Hoarders and TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive), it was inevitable that similar programs featuring animal hoarders would soon follow.

Confessions: Animal Hoarding, a new Animal Planet show (premiering July 21, 2010 at 9 PM E/PST) is sure to become “must see TV” for pet lovers and pet care professionals.

How many animals does it take to make a person an animal hoarder? Experts say that a person is classified as an animal hoarder when the number of pets they care for exceeds their ability to provide appropriate medical care for said pets. Additionally, animal hoarders have psychological and behavioral problems permitting reasonable recognition of the adverse effect their lifestyle has on their personal and professional relationships.

What makes an animal hoarder feel the need to bring so many animals into their home? The answer is multifaceted and typically results from animal hoarders having good intentions that go awry. They want to help dogs, cats, or other species, yet their altruism is skewed by underlying mental illness.

Why do I find this topic so interesting? I have come across people and situations in my veterinary practice readily fitting the characteristics of animal hoarders. There are clear and valid concerns for the health of the animals and humans involved in these situations.

Invariably, urine and feces fouls the confined spaces housing an inappropriately large number of animals. Potentially life threatening infectious diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites can be spread by feces, urine, saliva, blood, or trauma (bites, scratches). Additionally, general pet wellness is neglected, therefore a variety of preventable illnesses emerge or animals are discovered already deceased. Images of animal hoarding situations are often unsettling to viewers (both live and on-screen) and send a powerful message that should promote greater public awareness of this serious veterinary and human public health problem.

My hope is that this show (and its helpful website) will shed a humane and sympathetic light on animal hoarders. With greater public understanding, the animals involved in these unfortunate situations can receive proper medical care and be re-homed to more appropriate environments conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

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Copyright of this article is owned by Dr. Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr. Patrick Mahaney.

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Consulting credit

For more information on animal hoarding, see:
Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium

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