Full Title Name:  Detailed Discussion of Animal Hoarding

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Victoria Hayes Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Publish Year:  2010 Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center 1 Country of Origin:  United States

This article provides a basic overview of animal hoarding, its psychological underpinnings, and existing laws that are used to combat animal hoarding. The article suggests that current laws do not adequately prevent animal hoarding or protect animals, and that hoarding-specific legislation should be enacted. Hoarding-specific legislation should create a separate offense of animal hoarding, require psychological evaluation of animal hoarders, and prohibit future ownership of animals for convicted hoarders.

I. What is Animal Hoarding?

Animal hoarding is a form of animal abuse affecting thousands of animals each year.    Hoarded animals are kept in horrid conditions: deprived of socialization, denied proper care and nutrition, often living covered in their own waste, and suffering from disease.   Hoarded animals are often kept in various states of decay--with live animals living among (and sometimes feeding on) the remains of dead animals.

Although it is “one of the greatest causes of animal suffering in the United States, and hoarders are responsible for causing more injuries, suffering, and deaths to animals than the intentionally cruel acts of violent animal abusers,” [ 1 ] animal hoarding is a widely   misunderstood phenomenon.   Media portrayals of hoarding perpetuate public ignorance by focusing on emotional themes rather than presenting a factual picture of animal hoarding. [ 2 ]   Lack of knowledge about hoarding and a failure to understand the severity of the behavior may prevent authorities from effectively combating this form of animal cruelty.  

This article provides a basic overview of animal hoarding, its psychological underpinnings, and existing laws that are used to combat animal hoarding.   The article suggests that current laws do not adequately prevent animal hoarding or protect animals, and that hoarding-specific legislation should be enacted.   Hoarding-specific legislation should create a separate offense of animal hoarding, require psychological evaluation of animal hoarders, and prohibit future ownership of animals for convicted hoarders.   This first section defines animal hoarding and explains what animals are hoarded.   The second section describes the harmful effects hoarding has on animals and their owners.   The third section explains who animal hoarders are.   The fourth section discusses the psychological underpinnings that cause people to hoard animals.   The fifth section discusses current laws that are used to prosecute animal hoarding and stresses the importance of enacting hoarding-specific legislation.   The sixth section discuses laws that are related to animal cruelty and that can be useful in preventing and prosecuting hoarding.   The seventh section describes how animal hoarders are prosecuted, problems with current prosecution standards, and the high rate of recidivism among hoarders.   The eigth section discusses outcomes in animal hoarding cases and the penalties imposed on hoarders.   The article concludes that increasing awareness and understanding of animal hoarding is necessary to prevent hoarding and protect animals and that states should enact hoarding-specific legislation in order to adequately address the issue.

A. Defining Animal Hoarding

Each case of hoarding is unique, involving different species of animals, different conditions, and different hoarders.    Nonetheless, the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) identifies the following characteristics as common in all hoarders:

  • Accumulat[ion] of a large number of animals, which has overwhelmed that person’s ability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care;
  • Fail[ure] to acknowledge the deteriorating condition of the animals (including disease, starvation, and even death) and the household environment (severe overcrowding, very unsanitary conditions); and
  • Fail[ure] to recognize the negative effect of the collection   his or her own health and well-being, and on that of other household members. [ 3 ]

The number of animals involved is not a determinative factor in identifying hoarding. There is no threshold number used to distinguish between an owner of several pets and an animal hoarder. [ 4 ]    Instead, the determinative factors are the owner’s inability to provide care for the animals and the owner’s refusal to acknowledge that both the animals and the household are deteriorating. [ 5 ]    Many animal rescuers and many farmers keep hundreds of animals on their land but are not hoarders because they provide proper care and sustenance for their animals. [ 6 ]   For example, a Canadian woman who died leaving one hundred properly fed, spayed, neutered, vaccinated, and groomed cats was not considered an animal hoarder because her animals were properly cared for, while a Utah woman who severely neglected six cats was considered an animal hoarder. [ 7 ]  

B. What Animals Are Hoarded?

Any animal, including, among others, dogs, cats, birds, farm animals, and exotic animals can be hoarded, but dogs and cats are the most commonly hoarded. [ 8 ]   In a study of fifty-six cases from twenty-six different states, HARC researchers found dogs present in thirty-nine cases and cats present in forty cases. [ 9 ]   Although not hoarded as frequently as dogs and cats, birds are especially susceptible to hoarding because they are easy to hide and keep quiet when confined to small dark areas. [ 10 ]


II. Harmful Effects of Animal Hoarding

Animal hoarding is harmful to the welfare of both humans and animals.   Authorities often describe the conditions hoarded animals are kept in as deplorable:   “containing animal carcasses, standing water, refuse, and animal and human waste, and conditions inside the dwellings are ‘knee-deep in garbage and feces.’” [ 11 ]   The animals clearly suffer from the severe neglect hoarders impose on them.   The denial of basic needs (food, water, sanitation, and veterinary care) causes many of the animals to slowly deteriorate to the point of death.   Even after being rescued, many of the animals are beyond repair and must be euthanized to avoid needless suffering.  

Humans who live with hoarded animals (including the hoarders and anyone in their care, such as minors, disabled persons, and elders) also face serious health risks.   Animal waste accumulates causing high ammonia levels that pose immediate threats to both animal and human life and health.   In a Tennessee case, “dangerous levels of toxicity rated in a Tennessee hoarder’s home as a ‘biohazard’ [and] required the use of gas and oxygen masks for the rescue of forty cats.” [ 12 ]   Humans also risk contracting animal-related diseases and infections, such as external parasites, rabies, ringworm, and cat-scratch disease. [ 13 ]   Additionally, “[h]oarders’ home conditions can subject neighbors to fire hazards, insect and rodent infestation, and odor and noise.” [ 14 ]


III. Who Hoards Animals?

A. The Reality

Although older widowed women are most frequently hoarders (as in the classic stereotype of a “Crazy Cat Lady”), hoarders can be male or female, young or old, and come from various different socio-economic backgrounds. [ 15 ]    According to a HARC study evaluating cases between 2001 and 2002, 73.2% of primary offenders were female and half of these women were between the ages of fifty and fifty-nine, while only 33.3% of   the male primary offenders were between the ages of fifty and fifty-nine. [ 16 ]   These statistics are similar to those that a 1999 study conducted by Dr. Gary Patronek yielded.   Seventy-six percent of hoarders in Dr. Patronek’s study group were female. [ 17 ]   Although both studies reveal that hoarders are predominantly female, hoarders are not overwhelmingly female and men are also known to hoard.   The following examples demonstrate the wide variety of people that can be animal hoarders:

  • Marilyn Barletta, an intelligent, upper-class, well-dressed, Mercedez-Benz driving woman, purchased a $250,000 second home in Petaluma, California to house nearly 200 cats. [ 18 ]   Responding to a report of vandalism, authorities entered the house to find:

    [C]lose to 200 cats hiding in cupboards, drawers, walls, the garage, and the small unfinished space above it.   Five of the cats were dead:   One was partially decomposed in an unplugged refrigerator; another lay totally decomposed in a closet; one other died in a cat carrier. [ 19 ]
  • Vickie Kittles, a homeless woman, travelled across the United States in a school bus filled with 115 dogs, four cats, and two chickens.  [ 20 ]   When authorities entered the bus, they had to wear gas masks because of the overwhelming stench of animal waste. [ 21 ]   The animals were “starved, caked with their own feces, and suffering from heartworm disease.” [ 22 ]
  • A wealthy man in his forties, living in an exclusive neighborhood in Minnesota, kept more than eighty animals—mostly of exotic breeds—in various states of deterioration in his home. [ 23 ]    Tipped off by a concerned pet store clerk, authorities entered the house to discover:

    [The] inside of the spacious home was covered in feces and there were dead animals and animal parts in the sink garbage disposal.   Two sugar gliders were found dead in the pricey carriers they’d been shipped in, and a standard poodle was living in [the hoarder’s] car. [ 24 ]

B. The Stereotypes

The “cat lady” stereotype feeds public perceptions of hoarding, leading many people to view hoarders as merely animal lovers who become overwhelmed by their animals, rather than recognizing hoarding as a form of severe animal abuse and mental illness. [ 25 ]     People often see the police, animal rescue groups, and the judicial system as attacking these poor animal lovers instead of seeing the grave cruelty inflicted on the animals.   Friends, family, and neighbors of hoarders often defend hoarders as eccentric but well-meaning animal lovers. [ 26 ]    For example, one hoarder’s neighbor told reporters:   “He [the hoarder]’s kind of different and sometimes people try to take advantage of him.   In this case, he’s kind of getting railroaded.   It seems like the humane society is on a witch hunt.” [ 27 ]   Similarly, an attorney for a hoarder framed the case by stating, “This is not an animal abuse case.   It’s an animal loving case that went too far.” [ 28 ]   Even prosecutors and judges may be swayed by these perceptions, causing hoarders to receive only minimal charges and sentences. [ 29 ]


IV. Why do people hoard animals?

A. Myth:   A Love of Animals

Hoarders often claim that they were performing a public service and operating a “no-kill” animal shelter while the animals they claim to be helping suffer from malnourishment, respiratory infections, untreated wounds, and other severe injuries.   In 2007, for example, Nye County, Nevada’s animal control took possession of 700 cats that belonged to For the Love of Cats and Kittens (FLOCK), a nonprofit animal rescue organization. [ 30 ]   The cats were living in terrible conditions and were emaciated, wounded, injured and sick. [ 31 ]   Maggots infested one cat’s eye which was hanging from the socket, while two shriveled dead cats lay on the floor of FLOCK’s president’s house. [ 32 ]   FLOCK claimed to be a no-kill rescue organization, but, unlike legitimate rescue organizations, FLOCK failed to provide necessary food, shelter and medical care for the cats. [ 33 ]   Although some members of society may be sympathetic toward hoarders who appear to be well-meaning but overwhelmed, the conditions hoarders subject animals to shock and infuriate many legitimate animal care workers.   Dr. Gary Patronek, a veterinarian and founder of HARC, maintains that hoarders claiming to be rescuers “should be an offense to every legitimate rescuer.   It’s all about the person’s underlying need to acquire and control these animals.   The needs of the animals don’t come first.” [ 34 ]

Although hoarders are hurting and not helping the animals they hoard, their motivations do not seem to be cruel or sinister.   Patronek and other researchers admit that many hoarders begin with good intentions and often really do wish to save animals, but their focus somehow changes from helping to collecting and hoarding. [ 35 ]   Psychologist Jim Claiborn explains, “I have never encountered a single case in which there was a malicious or cruel intent.   I wouldn’t want to say these people are victims, but they need help.   After all, most of them live in the same filthy conditions as their animals.” [ 36 ]  

B. Reality:   Mental Illness

Claiborn, Patronek, and other researchers believe that underlying mental illnesses (not a love for animals) drive hoarding behavior. [ 37 ]   Although hoarding was traditionally viewed as a “lifestyle choice” many researchers maintain that the gravity of animal hoarding indicates a mental condition rather than a lifestyle. [ 38 ]   Very little psychiatric literature addresses animal hoarding and no conclusive determination has been made about the causes of hoarding, but researchers theorize about possible psychiatric models that could explain hoarding. [ 39 ]  

Researchers often suggest that hoarding is linked to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). [ 40 ]   Like OCD patients, who often feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for preventing harm and partake in ritualistic efforts to do so, animal hoarders seem to feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for protecting animals and unrealistically attempt to care for an unreasonable number of animals in order to do so. [ 41 ]   Many OCD patients also suffer from possession hoarding and nearly eighty percent of animal hoarders also hoard possessions. [ 42 ]   Accordingly, scientific research regarding the hoarding of possessions may be useful in analyzing animal hoarding. [ 43 ]  

Similarly, some researchers attempt to explain animal hoarding like a drug, gambling, or shopping addiction. [ 44 ]   In some cases, animal hoarding seems to be a by-product or side-effect of a shopping compulsion. [ 45 ]   In other cases, hoarding habits seem similar to substance abuse habits.   Dr. Karen Kemper, a veterinarian, maintains that the following characteristics are common to both animal hoarders and substance abusers:  

[P]reoccupation with the addiction, repetition of the addictive behavior, alibis for their behavior, neglect of personal and environmental conditions, claims of persecution; the presence of enablers who assist financially, denial that the addiction exists, isolation from the rest of society except for those who also deal in the addiction, and abuse of animals through neglect. [ 46 ]

Some researchers, however, argue that neither addiction nor OCD can explain the abuse that animal hoarder’s inflict on animals and their inability to recognize the pain and suffering they inflict upon the animals. [ 47 ]   Instead, these researchers suggest that a focal delusional disorder causes hoarders to believe that the animals are not suffering. [ 48 ]   This delusional disorder may explain why many hoarders vehemently deny that their animals are being kept in inhumane conditions and resist the removal of those animals for fear that the animal will be harmed. [ 49 ]

Yet another explanation is the attachment model . The attachment model suggests that hoarders use animals to fulfill a need for personal attachment that they are unable to fulfill through human relationships. [ 50 ]   This theory is supported by evidence that many hoarders started hoarding after the death of a close relative or a divorce. [ 51 ]   For example, after authorities removed forty-eight live cats and one hundred and fourteen dead cats from a seventy-two year old man’s residence, the man explained that he used the cats to comfort himself after his wife died. [ 52 ]   Dr. Patronek explains that “[a]nimals are an unconditional source of love, and the hoarder just can’t seem to get enough.” [ 53 ]

While no study has conclusively identified the psychological underpinnings behind animal hoarding, research in areas of OCD, addiction, and delusion and attachment disorders may be useful for providing insight on hoarding.   Despite these various theories on the psychological underpinnings that drive hoarders, many judges are reluctant to order psychological counseling for convicted hoarders. [ 54 ]   HARC researchers found that judges ordered pre-trial mental health evaluations in just over one quarter of the cases researched by HARC and that judges only ordered post-trial psychological counseling in eight of the forty-six cases. [ 55 ]   Experts note that judges’ reluctance to order counseling is surprising for several reasons:

First, a number of hoarders’ behaviors seemed symptomatic of serious psychological disorder based on how badly they neglected their animals, homes, and themselves.   Second, sometimes hoarders’ own attorneys cited their clients’ histories with mental illness, suggesting chronic and serious problems.   Third, sometimes investigators specifically asked judges to approach hoarders as irrational or disturbed individuals. [ 56 ]


V. Laws

A. State Animal Cruelty Laws

In every state, animal hoarders can be prosecuted under animal cruelty laws that require owners of companion animals to provide proper care for their animals. [ 57 ]   Because failure to provide proper care for animals is an act of omission or neglect rather than an affirmative act, animal hoarding is considered a misdemeanor offense in most states. [ 58 ]   In a few states neglect is considered a felony offense. (For more on state animal cruelty laws see State Cruelty Laws Topic Area .)   Penalties for animal cruelty offenses can include fines, animal forfeiture, and jail time. [ 59 ]   Some states, such as California, require courts to order psychological counseling for convicted animal abusers. [ 60 ]   Other states allow courts to order psychological counseling at the court’s discretion. [ 61 ]   Prosecutors may also be able to request bans on future pet ownership or limits on the number of animals a convicted hoarder may keep in the future. [ 62 ]   As will be discussed in Section VI below, these bans and limitations are only effective when coupled with proper monitoring to ensure compliance.

Although animal hoarders can be prosecuted under these animal cruelty laws, many scholars maintain that basic animal cruelty laws are not the most efficient way to prosecute hoarding.   As Stephan Otto, director of legislative affairs for ALDF explains:   “Only a handful of states allow felony charges for the worst kinds of animal neglect . . . They also need stronger laws that take into account when multiple numbers of animals were in involved in a case.” [ 63 ]   Additionally, animal cruelty statutes tend to be vague and fail to precisely define what it means to provide adequate care and shelter for animals. [ 64 ]   Although challenges to anti-cruelty laws as void for vagueness have generally been unsuccessful, [ 65 ] greater specificity in defining neglect, proper care, and animal hoarding, would help prosecutors pursuing charges against animal hoarders.

B.  Hoarding-Specific Legislation

1.  Current Legislation

a.  Illinois ’ Humane Care for Animals Act

In 2001, Governor George Ryan of Illinois, signed Illinois Senate Bill 626, the Companion Animal Hoarding Bill, amending the Illinois Humane Care for Animal Act [ 66 ] “to include a legal definition for a ‘companion animal hoarder’ and specific prohibitions against hoarding animals with felony criminal consequences.” [ 67 ]   The statute defines a “companion animal hoarder” as

[A] person who (i) possesses a large number of companion animals; (ii) fails to or is unable to provide what he or she is required to provide under Section 3 of this Act [food and water, adequate shelter and protection from whether, veterinary care, and human care and treatment]; (iii) keeps the companion animals in a severely overcrowded environment; and (iv) displays an inability to recognize or understand the nature of or has a reckless disregard for the conditions under which the companion animals are living and the deleterious impact they have on the companion animals’ and owner’s health and well-being. [ 68 ]

A person convicted of violating Article 3 (which requires the provision of food and water, adequate shelter and protection from the weather, veterinary care, and humane care and treatment) is guilty of a misdemeanor with a second or subsequent violation raising the offense to a Class 4 felony. [ 69 ]   Additionally, the statute mandates psychological or psychiatric evaluation and treatment when a person convicted of violating Section 3 is a “companion animal hoarder.” [ 70 ]

Although Illinois’ legal definition of a “companion animal hoarder” is a step in the direction of providing legislation that is specifically designed to combat animal hoarding, the definition does not provide any extra tools to a prosecutor.   Animal hoarding itself is not prohibited by the statute; the prosecutor must still show a violation of Section 3 of the Humane Care for Animals Act.   The Companion Animal Hoarding Bill merely defines hoarding and mandates psychological counseling for animal hoarders who violate Section 3.

b.  Hawaii’s Hoarding Law

Hawaii is currently the only state to specifically outlaw animal hoarding.   In 2008, Hawaii’s legislature passed Senate Bill 3203, making animal hoarding a misdemeanor offense.   Hawaii’s Penal Code now provides:

(1)     A person commits the offense of animal hoarding if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly;

(a)     Possesses more than fifteen dogs, cats, or a combination of dogs and cats;

(b)     Fails to provide necessary sustenance for each dog or cat; and

(c)     Fails to correct the conditions under which the dogs or cats are living, where conditions injurious to the dogs’, cats’, or owner’s health and well-being result from the person’s failure to provide necessary sustenance.

(2)     Animal hoarding is a misdemeanor. [ 71 ]

This law specifically criminalizes hoarding, while depriving an animal of necessary sustenance can also constitute a separate offense of animal cruelty.   The hoarding law differs from ordinances that limit the number of pets a person can have because it only prohibits keeping more than fifteen dogs and cats if the owner fails to provide necessary care for the animals and that failure causes injury to the animals or the owner.

An important aspect of this law is that prosecutors may be able to charge hoarders with one count of animal hoarding that covers all of the animals.   When hoarding is prosecuted under state animal cruelty laws, prosecutors must charge hoarders with multiple counts of animal cruelty­—one for each animal on the premises.   By creating the offense of “hoarding” Hawaii’s law seems to allow prosecutors to charge hoarders with one count of animal hoarding that covers every animal the person has hoarded, easing the prosecution’s burden of providing documentation of each individual animal’s injury.   This will also decrease the cumbersome burden multiple charges can place on courts.   Prosecutors will also be able to bring separate charges of animal cruelty for individual animals whose injuries are easiest to document.

Hawaii ’s hoarding statute is not perfect, however.   It does not mandate psychological counseling for convicted hoarders or restrict future animal ownership. [ 72 ]   Additionally, the statute does not explicitly state whether other sections of Hawaii’s Penal Code that apply in animal cruelty and abuse cases, such as   §711-1109.1, which allows authorities to impound animals suffering from abuse or neglect, or §711-1110.5, which provides for forfeiture of the animals prior to the disposition of criminal charges, apply in hoarding cases. [ 73 ]   Despite these shortcomings, Hawaii’s law remains the first law in the nation to specifically prohibit hoarding and should be a valuable tool for prosecutors in Hawaii.

2.  Pending Legislation

a.  New Jersey

On June 16, 2008, Assemblymen Nelson T. Albano and Matthew W. Milam introduced Assembly Bill 2981 [ 74 ] , an act establishing the animal cruelty offense of animal hoarding, to the New Jersey Assembly.   On the same date, Senator Jeff Van Drew introduced an identical bill, Senate Bill 1989, to the New Jersey Senate. [ 75 ]   The Assembly bill was referred to the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Bill was referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee, where it currently awaits further action.   These bills, like Hawaii’s animal hoarding law, would make animal hoarding a separate animal cruelty offense.   Under the bill, animal hoarding is a felony offense carrying penalties of up to 18 months imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.   The bill provides:

a.  A person is guilty of hoarding animals if the person keeps or has possession of a number of animals in a quantity such that the person fails or is unable to provide minimum care [ 76 ] for all of the animals and, due to the failure or inability to provide minimum care, at least some of the animal experience death, bodily injury or other serious adverse health consequences.   Animal hoarding is a crime of the fourth degree.

b.  The number of animals kept or in the possession of a person shall not be determinative of whether there has been a violation of this section, but may be considered as a factor in determining whether animals have been provided minimum care.

c.  Each course of conduct involving the hoarding of animals, not each animal involved, shall constitute a separate offense. [ 77 ]

Unlike Hawaii’s law, New Jersey’s proposed legislation does not provide any baseline number that would constitute hoarding if combined with failing to provide minimum care and causing injury to the animals.   Accordingly, under the proposed legislation, a person could be guilty of hoarding even with a relatively small number of animals if that person injures those animals by failing to provide minimum care to them.   Not only would the absence of a baseline number allow hoarding charges in cases with a relatively small number of animals, it may also garner less criticism from people who are wary of any limits on the number of animals a person may possess.  

Like Hawaii’s law, New Jersey’s bill would reduce the burden on both prosecutors and courts by providing that a separate offense is not brought for each animal involved.   Also like Hawaii’s law, the bill fails to mandate psychological care or evaluations or bans on owning or keeping animals and regular inspections of the premises.  

b.  Michigan

On April 4, 2008, Representative Rebekah Warren introduced House Bill No. 5946, which would amend Michigan’s penal code to include provisions specific to animal hoarding. [ 78 ] The bill was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary where it awaits further action.   Like Hawaii’s law and New Jersey’s pending legislation, Michigan’s bill creates a separate offense of animal hoarding.

The bill provides:

(3) A person shall not do any of the following:

. . .

(E) Hoard Animals.   A person’s affection for or humanitarian purpose in acquiring the animals is not a defense to a violation of this subdivision. [ 79 ]

The bill also provides that:

(E) “Hoard Animals” means to possess a large number of 10 or more animals if both of the following conditions are met:

(i) The animals’ living conditions negatively impact their health and well-being.

(ii) The possessor of the animals displays an inability to recognize or understand the nature of, or has a reckless disregard for, the harmful nature of the animals’ living conditions and the deleterious impact of those living conditions on the health and well-being of the animal. [ 80 ]

A person’s first violation of the prohibition on hoarding animals constitutes a misdemeanor “punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or community service for not more than 200 hours, or any combination of these penalties and the cost of prosecution.” [ 81 ]   A second violation is a felony carrying a maximum of 2 years in prison, a $2,000 fine, 300 hours of community service, or any combination of those penalties. [ 82 ]   Any subsequent violation constitutes a felony carrying a maximum imprisonment of 4 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, 500 hours of community service, or any combination of those penalties. [ 83 ]

By providing that a “person’s affection for or humanitarian purpose in acquiring the animals is not a defense” [ 84 ] to an offense of animal hoarding, the bill could alleviate problems of judges being sympathetic towards hoarders and being hesitant to convict them because it demonstrates the legislature’s intent that all hoarders be prosecuted.

3.  Unsuccessful Bills

a.  Montana

In January of 2009, Senator Mitch Tropila introduced Senate Bill 221, “An act including companion animal hoarding in the offense of cruelty to animals; providing that a person convicted of companion animal hoarding must, in addition to penalties, be required to undergo evaluation and treatment when considered appropriate by the sentencing court; and amending Section 45-8-211, MCA,” to the Montana Senate. [ 85 ]   The bill was passed by the Senate on February 26, 2009, but died in standing committee on April 28, 2009 in the state house of representatives. [ 86 ]

The proposed legislation provided that animal hoarding was a form of cruelty to animals punishable by a maximum of two-years imprisonment, a $2,500 fine, or both. [ 87 ]   The bill further mandated that animal hoarders undergo psychological or psychiatric examination and treatment. [ 88 ]   The bill, as passed by the Senate, described “companion animal hoarding” as:

(a)(i) “Companion animal hoarding” occurs if all of the following elements exists:

            (A) possession of 10 or more companion animals or household pets;

            (B) failure or inability to provide the necessary care for the animals in violation of subsection (1)(c); and

            (C) confining the animals in a severely overcrowded environment. [ 89 ]

(ii) The term does not include purebred animal breeding facilities or facilities for animals related to sanctioned endurance races unless the facilities meet the elements of subsection 5(A)(l).

(b) “Companion animal or household pet” means a domesticated cat, dog, bird, ferret, rabbit, or other domesticated animal normally maintained in the residence or on the property of the owner or person who cares for the domesticated animal. [ 90 ]

b.  New Mexico

In 2002, Representative Joe Thompson introduced House Bill 444 , “An act relating to animals; creating the crime of companion animal hoarding; providing penalties,” to New Mexico’s House of Representatives, where it died. [ 91 ]   The bill proposed establishing “companion animal hoarding” as a misdemeanor, punishable according to New Mexico’s misdemeanor sentencing schedule, mandating psychological evaluation and treatment of offenders, and allowing the court to issue bans on the future ownership of animals. [ 92 ]   The bill defined “companion animal hoarding” as:

(1) possessing over fifteen companion animals;

(2) failing to provide necessary nutrition to the companion animals;

(3) failing to shelter the companion animals in a sanitary environment;

(4)failing to provide necessary veterinary care to the companion animals; and

(5) displaying a disregard for the conditions under which the companion animals are living. [ 93 ]

c.  Vermont

In January of 2002, Senator Vincent Illuzzi introduced Senate Bill 205 , “An act relating to animal cruelty and hoarding animals,” to the Vermont Senate where the bill died in the judiciary. [ 94 ]   Like Illinois’ law, the bill did not propose to create a separate offense of animal hoarding.   Instead, the bill defined animal hoarding and provided that a person convicted of animal cruelty or neglect who fell into the definition of animal hoarder must be ordered to undergo psychological evaluation.   The bill defined an “animal hoarder” as a person who:

(A) possesses five or more animals;

(B) fails to provide for the animals in violation of subdivision 352(4) of this title [Vermont’s animal cruelty law];

(C) keeps the animals in a severely overcrowded environment; and

(D) displays an inability to recognize or understand the nature of or has a reckless disregard for the conditions under which the animals are living and the deleterious impact they have on the animals’ health and well-being. [ 95 ]

d.  Reasons the Bills Fail

It is unclear why these bills have not been successfully made into law.   Legislators may be wary of hoarding legislation because the public may view hoarding legislation as infringing on their rights to pet ownership.   Moreover, legislators may believe the popular myths that hoarding is not a severe form of animal abuse, but merely an act of having too much love for animals.   If legislators do not understand the seriousness of animal hoarding, they are unlikely to pass potentially unpopular laws.   Additionally, legislators may simply believe that hoarding legislation is unnecessary because hoarding can be prosecuted under existing animal cruelty laws.   Section C 3 below further discusses criticisms of hoarding legislation.

C.  Issues Related to Hoarding Specific Laws

1.  Psychological and Self-Neglect Standards

The generally accepted definition of animal hoarding includes both a self-neglect element and a psychological element (i.e., “fail[ure] to acknowledge the deteriorating conditions of the animals and . . . the household environment [and] failure to recognize the negative effect of the collection on [the hoarder’s] own health and well-being” [ 96 ] ), but legislatures and scholars disagree as to whether these components should be included in the legal definition of animal hoarding.   The Illinois Act, for example, includes both a psychological and a self-neglect element by providing that to be considered a hoarder a person must fail to acknowledge the “deleterious impact [the conditions] have on [both] the companion animals’ and owner’s health and well-being.” [ 97 ]   The Hawaii Act, on the other hand, does not require any psychological element, such as a failure to acknowledge the conditions, and does not require that the owner’s health be injured by the conditions.   Instead the Act states “where conditions injurious to the dogs’, cats’ or owner’s health and well-being result,” [ 98 ] indicating that the behavior must be harmful to either the owner or the animals for it to be considered hoarding.   Like Hawaii’s Act, New Jersey’s proposed legislation mentions neither a psychological element nor harm to the owner.    Meanwhile, Michigan, New Mexico, and Vermont’s proposed legislation include psychological elements (“inability to recognize or understand the nature of, or has a reckless disregard for . . .”) but do not require any detriment to the owner’s health.   Notably, the bill originally proposed to Montana’s Senate included language identical to the language in the Illinois’ Act, imposing a psychological element as a well as a self-neglect element, but this language was struck before the bill was passed by the Senate and transmitted to the House.

Including psychological and self-neglect elements in legislation is consistent with the generally accepted definition of hoarding and helps justify provisions for mandatory psychological evaluation and care in hoarding cases, but these provisions may impede the preventing and punishing of animal hoarding. [ 99 ]   Requiring self-neglect could provide a defense to hoarders who live separately from their animals. [ 100 ]   For example, Marilyn Barletta, the California woman who kept nearly 200 neglected cats in her second-home, would not qualify as a hoarder under a definition requiring harm to the owner.   Psychological elements, such as requiring “disregard” for the conditions or an “inability to understand” are also problematic because they introduce a mental element that may be difficult to prove, and allow a person’s awareness and acceptance of the terrible conditions to serve as a defense to the charge.

2.  Numerical Limits

Although animal hoarding is necessarily an offense that requires more than one animal, it is unclear whether there is any bright-line numerical rule distinguishing animal hoarders from other animal owners who abuse or neglect their animals.   The Illinois statute (like HARC’s definition of hoarding) refers to hoarders as having a “large” number of animals, while the Hawaii statute presently defines hoarders as having fifteen or more animals (and as enacted defined hoarders as having twenty or more animals). Michigan’s proposed legislation defines hoarders as having ten or more animals, and New Jersey’s proposed legislation states that the number of animals a person has is irrelevant for determining whether hoarding occurs.   These various numbers (and lack of numbers) demonstrate that there is little consensus about the number of animals that must be affected for hoarding to occur.   These divergent definitions demonstrate a lack of consensus about whether a set numerical standard should be used to define hoarding, or whether a less precise standard should be imposed.

A bright-line rule may be attractive because of its simplicity and easy application. [ 101 ]   However, such a rule may be criticized for “creating a legal black hole, in which obviously criminal behavior will evade prosecution, so long as it is perpetrated on a limited number of animals.” [ 102 ]   For example, a Hawaiian person keeping twelve dogs in a filthy and crowded basement without access to proper food or water cannot be prosecuted as an animal hoarder simply because they are three dogs under the state’s statutory limit of fifteen animals.

But failing to provide an exact number of animals that constitutes hoarding is also problematic because it provides no guidance for prosecutors and judges as to when an offense should be prosecuted under a hoarding statute and when it should be prosecuted under a cruelty statute. [ 103 ]   When no fixed number of animals is defined in an anti-hoarding statute, it is extremely difficult to distinguish hoarding from animal cruelty.   Moreover, using the phrase “a large number of animals” instead of a standard number could open the statute to constitutional challenge because the term “large” is neither clear nor objective. [ 104 ] This lack of clarity and objectivity forces prosecutors and judges to impose their own understanding of “large number of animals” and “hoarding,” and does not provide citizens with any clear understanding of what the law actually is.   Accordingly, such a statue may be considered void for vagueness

3.  Criticisms of Anti-Hoarding Legislation

While many scholars and animal advocates support legislation aimed specifically at combating animal hoarding, these laws have also been criticized as unnecessary and redundant. [ 105 ]   Critics of animal hoarding legislation maintain that rather than creating specific hoarding statutes, legislatures should refine existing anti-cruelty statues by increasing penalties for animal cruelty that results from omission (such as neglect and failure to properly care for animals), reducing the mens rea element to one of mere intent (rather than willful or malicious behavior), and by imposing mandatory psychological evaluation and care for all animal abusers and not just hoarders. [ 106 ]  

Critics maintain that hoarding legislation is unnecessary because hoarding can be successfully prosecuted under existing animal cruelty statutes and because hoarding legislation refers to behavior that is already illegal under cruelty statues, adding only the element that numerous animals be subjected to that behavior.   For example,

[A]n anti-hoarding law will only be violated where an anti-cruelty law has already been violated.   Simply owning thirty cats is not, per se , a criminal act, while owning thirty cats and failing to provide them with adequate food or shelter constitutes the offense of animal hoarding.   However, owning thirty cats and failing to provide them with adequate food or shelter already constitutes the offense of animal cruelty under most state statutes. [ 107 ]

These critics fail to consider that the intent of hoarding legislations is to distinguish animal hoarding from other types of animal cruelty.   Supporters of hoarding legislation maintain that hoarding should be distinguished from other forms of animal cruelty in order to ensure that judges, juries, and prosecutors understand the seriousness of the crime and its psychological underpinnings.   Creating a distinct crime of “hoarding” allows legislatures to require psychological evaluation of hoarders and ensure that hoarding is recognized as severe abuse (instead of being viewed as merely animal loving that goes too far).

Nonetheless, the criticisms of hoarding legislation may explain the slow progress in states enacting hoarding-specific laws.   Despite this, many states already have related companion laws that can be useful in preventing and prosecuting hoarding.


VI. Related Laws

A.  Forfeiture and Bond Laws

Most states have laws that allow authorities to seize abused animals from their abusive owners.   The power to seize hoarded animals is necessary to save the animals from cruel conditions, but it is extremely expensive for the state and private shelters to care for the animals. [ 108 ]   Beyond basic food and shelter considerations, the animals often need veterinary care and many require euthanization. [ 109 ]   For example, local organizations in New York’s Fulton County spent more than $100,000 caring for 230 animals seized from one couple. [ 110 ]   The animals are also considered evidence in the prosecution, which means they cannot be adopted out or sent to foster homes until the prosecution is complete. [ 111 ]  

In order to reduce the financial strain placed on local authorities and organizations, authorities may be able to use nuisance laws to place a nuisance-abatement lien on the hoarder’s home, as the city of Petaluma did in a case where a woman was hoarding nearly 200 cats. [ 112 ]   Additionally, nearly one-third of states have enacted “bond laws” (legislation requiring animal owners to post a security or bond for the care of the seized animals). [ 113 ] Generally, these bond laws require that the owners of impounded animals post securities to cover the care of their impounded animals in thirty day increments. [ 114 ]   If the payment is not received, the animals may be adopted out or euthanized. [ 115 ]    Many of these laws include provisions that allow the animals to be humanely euthanized­ (despite a bond being paid­­) under circumstances where a veterinarian determines that the animal is experiencing extreme pain and suffering or is injured, diseased, or disabled past the point of recovery. [ 116 ]

These bond laws pass constitutional scrutiny when they are carefully drafted to ensure that the hoarders’ due process rights are not violated.   HARC’s website lists some of the provisions necessary for ensuring due process rights as:

  • Providing the defendant with sufficient notice and an opportunity for a hearing before any security is posted.
  • Requiring the authority to secure a court order for [sic] to humanely dispose of the animal at the end of the time for which expenses are covered by the security.
  • Providing for the court’s discretion in waiving or reducing the amount of the bond.   This ability to waive or reduce the bond will ensure due process and equal protection to any indigent person so that he/she is not deprived of his/her property or access to the courts based on the ability to pay the bond. [ 117 ]

B.  Community Ordinances

In states that do not recognize animal hoarding as an independent crime, municipalities may choose to pass community ordinances that outlaw animal hoarding, provide provisions for forfeiture of animals, and mandate psychological or psychiatric evaluation and treatment for animal hoarders.   The Animal Law Coalition has a Model Hoarding Ordinance (available under “Resources” at www.animallawcoalition.com ) that can be adapted by various communities.   These laws should be distinguished from pet limitation ordinances that are “wildly unpopular, difficult to enforce, and likely to be opposed by a broad coalition of pet fanciers, breeders, rescue groups, and animal protection organizations.” [ 118 ]   While hoarding ordinances prohibit keeping numerous animals in conditions that are harmful to the animals’ health, pet limitation ordinances simply prohibit keeping more than a certain number of animals regardless of the level of care provided to the animals.  

Besides being unpopular and difficult to enforce, pet limitation ordinances are easy to evade.   For example, when Sacramento County officials informed Suzanna Youngblood, a woman convicted of animal cruelty in California in 2001, that she could not keep more than four cats in the county, she simply moved the cats to Placer County, a nearby county without a pet limit ordinance. [ 119 ]   Eventually Youngblood returned to Sacramento County to live, leaving 92 cats in a trailer that she visited from time-to-time. [ 120 ]

C.  Shelter Regulations and Licensing Provisions

Mandatory shelter regulations and licensing provisions may help prevent animal hoarding and assist in the early detection of hoarding situations.   These regulations may include veterinary care requirements and regular inspection of licensed facilities.   Such regulations are especially useful where the hoarder claims to be running a rescue organization. [ 121 ] Colorado’s Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act , for example, imposes licensing requirements and comprehensive standards for operating animal shelters and requires operators to submit annual reports concerning their facilities and compliance with the regulations. [ 122 ]   The Act allows authorities to shut down facilities that do not meet the licensing requirements or adhere to the standards.   As a result, hoarders claiming to run rescue organizations can be forced to close for failing to meet the care requirements.   The licensing requirement can also help public donors determine whether they are donating money to a legitimate rescue organization or to a person or organization that is hoarding animals without providing adequate care.   Other states, including Georgia, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, have also developed laws requiring licensing of shelters and rescues that may help combat hoarding  

D.  North Carolina’s Standing Law

Although not specifically directed at animal hoarding, North Carolina’s Civil Remedy for Protection of Animals Statute  [ 123 ] is a unique law that can be used by individuals and groups to combat hoarding.   The statue allows individuals and groups to gain possession of hoarded animals and prevent the animal hoarders from acquiring new animals.   The court may either enjoin hoarders from acquiring new animals for a certain time period or impose limits on the number of animals that they can acquire. As stated by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, the statute “express[es] the General Assembly’s intent that the broadest category of person or organizations be deemed ‘[a] real party in interest’ when contesting cruelty to animals.” [ 124 ]   The statute takes the burden of prosecution off municipalities by allowing any private citizen or organization to bring civil charges against persons abusing animals and violating animal cruelty laws.   Under the statute, private citizens or organizations can petition for the issuance of temporary injunctions that allow plaintiffs to provide suitable care for the abused animals and take possession of the animals as temporary custodians. [ 125 ]   Permanent injunctions also may be issued enjoining the animal owners from committing further cruelty and, when necessary, allowing the plaintiffs to maintain permanent possession of the animals. [ 126 ]   When the plaintiff prevails, the court may also award “costs of food, water, shelter, and care, including medical care, provided to the animal.” [ 127 ]  

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) successfully used this law to gain possession of more than 350 dogs that were being hoarded in squalid conditions in Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Woodley . [ 128 ]   Pursuant to the Civil Remedy for Protection of Animals statute, the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld “an injunction forfeiting all rights in the animals possessed by [the hoarders] and the removal of the animals from [the hoarder’s] control,” giving ALDF control of the abused animals.   ALDF provided veterinary care for the abused animals and placed them in foster homes where they were provided with proper care.   Following the North Carolina Supreme Court’s denial of the defendants’ appeal in October 2007, the decision became permanent, allowing ALDF to adopt out the animals for the remainder of the animals’ lives.  

Similarly, ALDF filed a complaint under the Civil Remedy for Protection of Animals statute against alleged hoarder Janie Conyers. [ 129 ]   ALDF reached a settlement agreement with Conyers, giving ALDF possession of, and the ability to adopt to safe homes, the more than 100 dogs and several birds that were being kept in inhumane conditions. [ 130 ]   Conyers also agreed to refrain from owning any animals in the future and to allow authorities access to her home to ensure compliance. [ 131 ]

ALDF’s Chief Outside Litigation Counsel, Bruce Wagman, encourages other states to enact similar legislation:   “If they really care about animal welfare, more states should look at enacting similar civil provisions for animal cruelty cases so organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund can help rescue animals from horrible circumstance like [those in Woodley ].” [ 132 ]   To assist other states in developing similar legislation, ALDF has drafted a Model Law for a Private Right of Action with similar provisions that can be accessed at http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=262 .   ALDF urges other states to pass the law, as it “would greatly reduce the burden on local prosecutors and allow concerned citizens and animal protection groups to stop the tragedy of hoarding in their own communities throughout the country.” [ 133 ]


VII. Prosecuting Hoarding

Prosecuting animal hoarding cases is “complex, time consuming, and costly.” [ 134 ]   Dr. Gary Patronek explains that “[p]rosecutors don’t really have the tools they need to fully go after these cases . . . and they often don’t have the support of other agencies that they need.   The cases don’t get widespread attention, so many are not dealt with or monitored well.   That means the perpetrators keep getting away with their behavior and animals keep suffering.” [ 135 ]   Laws criminalizing hoarding as well as forfeiture and bond laws can make prosecution easier and less costly, but there are still other difficulties in prosecuting hoarders.

A.  Reluctance to Prosecute

Without community support, many prosecutors do not want to take the time or effort to fully prosecute hoarding cases. In the Kittles case, Vicki Kittles travelled cross-country on a school-bus filled with 115 improperly cared for dogs. [ 136 ]   Officials in numerous jurisdictions (in Florida, Mississippi, Colorado, Washington) were aware of Kittles and her dogs, but rather than addressing the issue, they simply asked her to leave town, even giving her money for gas so that she could. [ 137 ]   Joshua Marquis, Clatsop County Oregon’s District Attorney who prosecuted Kittles in 1995, explains that many prosecutors choose not to prosecute hoarders because hoarding prosecution does not garner community support and because prosecutors are often ridiculed for working on hoarding cases. [ 138 ]  

Additionally, officials may opt to forgo charges or enter into lenient plea-bargains in exchange for custody of the animals because they fear that the animals will languish in shelters while prosecution is pending. [ 139 ]   These attempts to “strike a balance between helping both the hoarder and the animals involved” are generally ineffective because of high recidivism rates among hoarders. [ 140 ]   See Recidivism Section below.

B.  Lack of Communication Among Agencies

In other cases, a lack of communication among various county agencies, such as code enforcement, the health department, and animal control, impedes the detection of animal hoarders and prevents the animals from being seized from the hoarders. [ 141 ]   HARC researchers identified several cases where the Health Departments or Code Enforcement divisions spent years dealing with hoarders before notifying any local animal agency of the problem. [ 142 ]   For example, in once case the Health Department dealt with a woman and her eighty-seven cats for years and only notified an animal shelter of the problem after the woman’s house burst into flames, trapping the cats inside. [ 143 ]

C.  Inconsistent Charges

When hoarders are prosecuted, there is broad inconsistency in the number and severity of charges brought.   HARC’s research on 56 animal hoarding cases illustrates this inconsistency:  

In sixteen cases, individuals were charged with one count of animal cruelty for their entire group of animals rather than one count of cruelty for each animal involved.   In several other cases, hoarders were only charged with one count of failure to license or provide a rabies vaccination when there were dozens of animals involved. [ 144 ]

These inconsistencies may arise because some prosecutors and judges discourage multiple charges, believing that they “clog” the system. [ 145 ]   The difficulty of proving each charge also accounts for these inconsistencies. [ 146 ]   In order to bring one charge of cruelty for each animal, prosecutors and animal agencies must provide proof of cruelty to each animal, matching each animal with its count number. [ 147 ]   Adversely, charging the hoarder with only one count reduces the burdens on the system, the prosecutors, and the animal agencies, but undermines the severity of the charges.   Laws (like Hawaii’s) creating a separate offense of animal hoarding may solve this problem by allowing one count of hoarding to be brought in every case that encompasses the hoarding aspect of the charge rather than focusing on each individual count of cruelty.

D.  Recidivism

Because of high recidivism rates, many experts maintain that traditional means of punishment (such as fines and jail time) are insufficient to combat hoarding.   The recidivism rate for animal hoarders is nearly one hundred percent—with hoarders beginning to collect more animals almost immediately after being charged with hoarding or having their animals removed by animal control or a rescue society. [ 148 ]   Accordingly to Dr. Patronek, “The adage is that most hoarders will pick up another animal on their way home from the courtroom.” [ 149 ]   Geoffrey Handy echoes Dr. Patronek’s sentiment, explaining:   “Take a [hoarder’s] animals away without any other intervention and he or she will likely accumulate the same number of animals within a short period of time. . . .   A one-time rescue or a prosecution and a fine are rarely, if ever, permanent solutions.” [ 150 ]   Marilyn Barletta, for example, was caught hoarding cats in the 1970, the 1990s, and twice in 2001. [ 151 ]   Similarly, three women were found to have acquired more cats and dogs a mere two days after authorities removed eighty-two live and one hundred and eight dead cats from their home. [ 152 ]  

In order to reduce recidivism, experts advocate that courts bar convicted hoarders from contact with animals permanently, or for as long as the state law will allow. [ 153 ]   These court orders can only effectively reduce recidivism if they are followed with monitoring and supervision to ensure that the former hoarders adhere to them. [ 154 ]   Unfortunately, there is rarely proper monitoring even when the sentence requires regular follow-up visits by officials. [ 155 ]   Often, even the whereabouts of the convicted hoarder shortly after the sentencing are unknown. [ 156 ]

While experts agree that prohibitions on owning animals are necessary to combat future hoarding, they disagree as to whether these bans should be absolute prohibitions or whether hoarders should be allowed to keep, under close supervision, a limited number of animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) advocates for absolute prohibition from any and all animals, arguing that “allowing an animal hoarder to own or harbor even a single animal is akin to providing a drink to an alcoholic and warning him or her not to consume a second.” [ 157 ]    HARC researchers, on the other hand, suggest that an absolute ban may not always be appropriate. [ 158 ]   Instead, HARC researchers suggest that recidivism is most successfully prevented when authorities “attempt to develop a relationship with the hoarders, to work with them on an appropriate solution to the problem, and to ensure that their hoarding behavior will not begin again.” [ 159 ]

HARC researchers found three examples of successful follow-up where agency efforts were made to ensure that the hoarders did not resort back to hoarding, despite being allowed to keep a limited number of animals. [ 160 ]    In the case that HARC identifies as the best example of potential success, an initially hostile couple eventually agreed to surrender 120 dogs that they were hoarding in their home to an officer who worked with them over the course of several months. [ 161 ]   Rather than charging the couple with 120 counts of animal cruelty, which would lead to a stiffer sentence than the couple could afford, town officials offered a plea-bargain by which the couple was charged with eighty-eight counts of unlicensed dogs and fined $4,000, but allowed to retain five of the dogs, subject to surprise visits by authorities. [ 162 ]   The couple agreed that after the five dogs die, they would no longer keep any animals. [ 163 ]   Close monitoring of the couple and their five dogs has prevented the couple from returning to hoarding and ensured that the dogs receive proper care and treatment. [ 164 ]


VIII. Case Outcomes

HARC’s research on fifty-six hoarding cases revealed that judges ordered pre-trial psychological assessment or mental health evaluation in just over one-fourth of the cases. [ 165 ]   In forty-two of the fifty-six cases there was either a guilty verdict or a plea bargain. [ 166 ]   The majority of those sentenced (41.7%) were sentenced to between fifteen days and six months in jail while others (29.4%) were sentenced to between six months and one year of jail time and others (23.5%) were sentenced to ten years of jail time. [ 167 ]   The ten-year sentences were suspended in all but one case—a case involving the welfare of a child as well as the animals.   Probation was ordered in just over one-third of the cases where the defendants were held guilty or entered into a plea bargain. [ 168 ]   Defendants were fined (with fines ranging from $100 to $17,500) in almost one half of the cases, and defendants were ordered to pay restitution for the care of animals, with restitution ranging from $500 to $44,106 in twenty-five percent of cases. [ 169 ]   Less than half of the courts ordered prohibitions or limits on the number of animals the defendants could own in the future:

In three cases (5.4%), the defendants were prohibited from ever owning or possessing animals.   In eleven cases (19.6%), the defendants were forbidden from owning or possessing animals just during their probation.   In two cases (3.6%), the defendants were allowed to keep a limited number of animals during their probation.   Additionally, in eight cases (14.3%), defendants who did not receive probation were given limits as to the number of animals they could own or posses in the future. [ 170 ]

A detailed discussion of the results of HARC’s research, Long-Term Outcomes in Animal Hoarding Cases , was published by the Animal Law Review at Lewis and Clark Law School in 2005.


IX. Conclusions

Animal hoarding is a severe form of animal abuse that deserves special legislative attention.   Misperceptions about animal hoarding prevent adequate prevention of hoarding, protection of animals, and prosecution of offenders.   Enacting hoarding-specific legislation, similar to Hawaii’s hoarding law, would help ensure better prevention, protection, and prosecution.   Even in the absence of hoarding-specific legislation, efforts should be made to ensure that hoarders are prosecuted and prevented from repeating the offense.  


[1] Lisa Avery, From Helping to Hoarding to Hurting:   When the Acts of “Good Samaritans” Become Felony Animal Cruelty, 39 Val. U, L. Rev . 815, 817 (2005).

[2] See Arnold Arluke et al., Press Reports of Animal Hoarding, 10 Soc’y & Animals 113 (discussing inaccuracies in media portrayal of animal hoarding).

[3] Gary J. Patronek, The Problem of Animal Hoarding, Municipal Lawyer 6 (2001) [hereinafter The Problem ].

[4] Avery, supra note 1, at 821.

[5] Id.

[6] Susan E.Davis, Prosecuting Animal Hoarders is Like Herding Cats, California Lawyer 26, 28 (2002).

[7] Avery, supra note 1, at 822.

[8] The Problem, supra note 3, at 1.

[10] Sandy Miller, Objects of Their Affection — The Hidden World of Hoarders , Best Friends , January/February 2008, at 22.

[11] Avery, supra note 1, at 826 (internal citation omitted).

[12] Id. at 827.

[13] Id. at 828.

[14] Id. at 829.

[15] Davis, supra note 6, at 28.

[16] Berry, supra note 9, at 175.

[17] Gary J. Patronek, Hoarding of Animals:   An Under-Recognized Public Health Problem in a Difficult-to-Study Population, Public Health Reports , January/February 1999, at 84 [hereinafter Under-Recognized ].

[18] Davis, supra note 6, at 26.

[19] Id.

[20] Avery, supra note 1, at 842.

[21] Joshua Marquis, The Kittles Case and its Aftermath, 2 Animal L . 197 (1996).

[22] Avery, supra note 1, at 842.

[23]   Miller, supra note 10, at 22.

[24] Id.

[25] Arluke et al., supra note 2, at 125.

[26] Id. at 127.

[27] Id.

[28] Id. at 126.

[29] Avery, supra note 1, at 840.

[30] Miller, supra note 10, at 21.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Id. at 22.

[35] Paul Rioux, Profile Fit in Pet Curelty Case – Hoarders have void in lives, experts say, The Times-Picayune , Mar. 21, 2004.

[36] Id.

[37] See, e.g., Randy Frost, People Who Hoard Animals, 17 Psychiatric Times (2000), available at http://www.searchmedica.com/resource.html?rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.psychiatrictimes.com%2Fdisplay%2Farticle%2F10168%2F54031&q=People+who+Hoard+Animals&c=ps&ss=psychTimesLink&p=Convera&fr=true&ds=0&srid=1 (collecting explanatory models for animal hoarding).

[38] Avery, supra note 1, at 835.

[39] Frost, supra note 37, at 1.

[40] Id. at 2.

[41] Id. at 2.

[42] Avery, supra note 1, at 838.

[43] Frost, supra note 37, at 2.

[44] Frost at 2

[45] Miller, supra note 10, at 22.

[46] Avery, supra note 1, at 837.

[47] Davis, supra note 6, at 29.

[48] Id.

[49] Id.

[50] Id. at 32.

[51] Avery, supra note 1, at 836.

[52] Id.

[53] Rioux, supra note 35,      

[54] Arluke et al., supra note 2, at 124.

[55] Berry et al ., supra note 9, at 177-79.

[56] Arluke et al., supra note 2, at 124.

[57] Avery, supra note 1, at 857.

[58] The Problem , supra note 3, at 3.

[59] Id.

[60] Davis , supra note 6, at 67; Pen C § 597(g).

[61] The Problem , supra note 3, at 3.

[62] Davis, supra note 6, at 67.

[63] Miller, supra note 10, at 57.

[64] Id.

[65] See, e.g., Florida v. Mary Elizabeth Wilson, 464 So.2d 667 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1985) (upholding the constitutionality of Florida’s statutory prohibition against depriving an animal of sufficient food, water, air, and exercise in a case where a defendant charged with keeping seventy-seven poodles caged in the back of a van with inadequate food, water, and air argued that the statute was void for vagueness); People v. Speegle, 53 Cal. App. 4th 1405 (Cal. 1997) (upholding the constitutionality of California’s statutory prohibition against “depriving an animal of ‘necessary’ sustenance, drink or shelter, subjecting an animal to ‘needless suffering’; or failing to provide an animal with ‘proper’ food or drink” in a case where a defendant charged with keeping two hundred poodles, three horses, and one cat in squalid conditions without adequate food, care, or shelter argued that the statute was void for vagueness).

[67] Avery, supra note 1, at 843.           

[69] Id. at 70/3.

[70] Id.

[71] Haw. Rev. Stat. § 711-1109.6 (2009) .   Originally the statute prohibited possessing more than twenty dogs that the owner failed to properly care and provide for, but the legislature amended this to fifteen in 2009 .

[72] Laura Allen, Hawaii Legislature Passes Bill to Make Hoarding a Crime, But is it Strong Enough, Animal Law Coalition, http://www.animallawcoalition.com/animal-hoarding/article/459 .

[73] Id.

[74] A.B. 2981, 213th Leg. (N.J. 2008), available at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/A3000/2981_I1.PDF .

[75]   S. 1989, 213th Leg. (N.J. 2008), available at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2008/Bills/S2000/1989_I1.PDF .

[76] The bill defines “minimum care” as “care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal and, except for emergencies or circumstances beyond the control of the person responsible for the care of the animal, provide the following:   (1) food or sufficient quantity and quality to allow for normal growth or maintenance of body weight; (2) open or adequate access to drinkable water of an appropriate temperature in sufficient quantity to satisfy the needs of the animal; (3) access to an enclosed nonhazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal from the weather that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness; (4) adequate protection for extreme or excessive sunlight and from overexposure to the sun, heath, and other weather conditions; (5) veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent per person to prevent or relieve injury, neglect, or disease, or distress from these conditions; and (6) reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.”   Id.

[77] Id.

[79] Id. at (3)(E).

[80] Id. at (1)(E).

[81] Id. at (5).

[82] Id.

[83] Id.

[84] Id. at (3)(E).

[85]   S. 221, 61st Leg., (Mont. 2009), available at http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2009/billpdf/SB0221.pdf .

[87] S. 221, 61st Leg., (Mont. 2009), available at http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2009/billpdf/SB0221.pdf .

[88] Id.

[89] The original bill presented to the Senate included a fourth element identical to the psychological and self-neglect element in Illinois’s statue, but this provision was struck before the bill passed in the Senate and was transmitted to the House.

[90] S. 221, 61st Leg., (Mont. 2009), available at http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2009/billpdf/SB0221.pdf .

[92] H.R. 444, 45th Leg., 2d Sess. (N.M. 2002), available at http://legis.state.nm.us/Sessions/02%20Regular/bills/house/HB0444.pdf .

[93] Id.                                                                                                

[94] Vermont Legislature, http://www.leg.state.vt.us/database/status/summary.cfm?Bill=S%2E0205&Session=2002 . (last visited Jan. 22, 2010).

[95] S. 205 (Vt. 2002).

[96] The Problem, supra note 3.

[99] Jason E. Schwalm, Animal Curelty by Another Name:   the Redundancy of Animal Hoarding Laws, The Selected Works of Jason E. Schwalm, http://works.bepress.com/jason_schwalm/2 at 13 .

[100] Id.

[101] Id. at 15.

[102] Id. at 15-16.

[103] Id. at 16-17.

[104] Id. at 18-19.

[105] Id.

[106] Id.

[107] Id . at 17.

[108] Davis, supra note 6, at 67.

[109] Id.

[110] The Horror of Animal Hoarding, Animal Legal Defense Fund website, http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=280 (last visited Jan. 22, 2010).

[111] Bond Laws to Cover Cost of Care after a Seizure, The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/bond.htm  (last visited Jan. 22, 2010) [hereinafter HARC Bond Laws].

[112] Davis, supra note 6, at 67.

[113] HARC Bond Laws, supra note 111.

[114] Id.

[115] Davis, supra note 6, at 67.

[116] See, e.g., Colo. Rev. Stat.   18-9-202.5 .   ALDF’s Model Animal Protection Laws include similar provisions for Pre-Conviction Cost of Care bonds and can be viewed at http://ww.aldf.org/article.php?id=262 .   The bond laws of Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington can be viewed at HARC’s website, http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/Bondlaws.htm .

[117] HARC Bond Laws, supra note 111.

[118] The Problem, supra note 3, at 3.

[120] Id.

[121] The Problem, supra note 3, at 3.

[122] Colo. Rev. Stat. 35-80-102 et seq.   A complete list of the regulations is found in the Colorado Code of Regulations 8 CCR 1201-11, available at http://www.sos.state.co/us/CCR/welcome.do .

[124] Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Woodley, 640 S.E.2d 777, 779 (N.C. App. Ct. 2007 ) (quoting Justice for Animals, Inc. v. Robeson County, 595 S.E.2d 773, 776-77 (N.C. App. Ct. 2004).

[126] Id. § 19A-4

[127] ID.

[128] 640 S.E.2d 777 (North Carolina Court of Appeals 2007).

[129] Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues to Rescue 100+ Dogs from Real-Life House of Horrors in Raleigh, Animal Legal Defense Fund, October 31, 2007, http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=468 (last visited Jan. 22, 2010).

[130] WRAL.com, Animal Rights Group Settles with Owner of Seized Dogs, Dec. 12 2007, http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/2162889/ (last visited Jan. 22, 2010).

[131] Id.

[132] Appeals Court Uphold Landmark Animal Cruelty Decision , Animal Legal Defense Fund, February8th 2007, http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=371  (last visited Jan. 22, 2010).

[133] ALDF v. Woodley , Mar. 31, 2005,   Animal Legal Defense Fund, http://www.aldf.org/article.php?id=284 (last visited Jan. 22, 2010).

[134] Avery, supra note 1, at 838.

[135] Davis, supra note 6, at 28.

[136] Berry et al ., supra note 9, at 171.

[137] Marquis, supra note 21, at 197.

[138] Id. at 201.

[139] Berry et al ., supra note 9, at 179.

[140] Id. at 179.

[141] Id. at 180.

[142] Id.

[143] Id.

[144] Id. at 183.

[145] Id. at 184.

[146] Id.

[147] Id.

[148] Avery, supra note 1, at 834.

[149] Davis, supra note 6, at 29.

[150] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Animal Hoarders:   Behavior, Consequence, and Appropriate Official Response , at 9 (internal citation omitted), http://www.helpinganimals.com/pdfs/hoardingsingle72.pdf (last visited Jan. 22, 2010) [hereinafter PETA Report].

[151] Davis, supra note 6, at 29.

[152] Avery, supra note 1, at 834.

[153] PETA Report, supra note 150, at 9.

[154] Id. at 11.

[155] Berry et al ., supra note 9, at 185.

[156] Id.

[157] PETA Report, supra note 150, at 10.

[158] Berry et al ., supra note 9, at 185.

[159] Id. at 186.

[160] Id.

[161] Id.

[162] Id.

[163] Id.

[164] Id.

[165] Id. at 177.

[166] Id. at 178.

[167] Id.

[168] Id.

[169] Id.

[170] Id. at 179.

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