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Brief Summary of Animal Hoarding
Victoria Hayes (2009)

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 living animals living among (and sometimes feeding on) the remains of dead animals.

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. [1]

Many people mistakenly believe that animal hoarders are merely well-meaning animal lovers who become overwhelmed by their animals.   In reality, however, experts believe that hoarding is a form of mental illness and that hoarders should receive psychological evaluation and treatment.

Hoarding is generally prosecuted under state animal cruelty laws.   In most states it is a misdemeanor offense, but in some states it may be a felony offense.   Penalties for the offense can include fines, animal forfeiture, and jail time.   Because of a high-rate of recidivism (repeating the criminal behavior) among hoarders, courts may also ban convicted hoarders from owning animals in the future or place a limit on the number of animals they may have.   These orders are only effective when they are properly monitored.

In 2008, Hawaii became the first state with a specific law against animal hoarding.   Legislators in some other states, such as Montana and New Mexico, have unsuccessfully attempted to pass specific laws against hoarding.   Some people believe that specific anti-hoarding laws are unnecessary because hoarding can be prosecuted under animal cruelty laws.   Proponents of animal hoarding laws argue that the laws are necessary in order to distinguish hoarding from other types of animal cruelty.   They believe that hoarding should be distinguished in order to increase awareness and understanding of the offense that causes serious harm to multiple animals.

[1] Gary J. Patronek, The Problem of Animal Hoarding, Municipal Lawyer 1 (2001).


Pleading documents in hoarding cases: 


In the Matter of a Protective Order for Jean Marie Primrose (2005)     Oregon This series of actions stemmed from the seizure of 11 cats from Jean Marie Primrose from her Linn County, Oregon home. Ms. Primrose was charged with criminal animal neglect in the second degree, but the trial court dismissed those charges because she was found incompetent due to a cognitive impairment. Because the case was dismissed, the cats were not forfeited by law and Cat Champion had incurred a $32,510 debt in caring for the animals. Cat Champions filed a petition for a limited protective order as a fiduciary for the care and placement of the cats. The probate court ruled against Cat Champions but on appeal the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the lower court's order and held that the probate court did indeed have authority to enter a limited protective order.  
ALDF v. Conyers (2007)     North Carolina Plaintiffs in this case consist of the Wake County Animal Care, Control, and Adoption Center and the local chapter of the ALDF. They seek preliminary and permanent injunctions pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. Secs. 19A-1 through 19A-4 against Defendant Janie Conyers, who was found to have 106 animals living in her house under deplorable conditions. Most of the animals suffer from severe chronic oral and skin conditions due to neglect.  



Related articles

Long-Term Outcomes in Animal Hoarding Cases, Colin Berry, M.S., Gary Patronek, V.M.D., Ph.D., and Randall Lockwood, Ph.D., 11 Animal Law 167 (2005). Animal hoarding is a form of abuse that affects thousands of animals each year, yet little is known about how cases are best resolved, the effectiveness of prosecution, and how sentences relate to the severity of the offense. This lack of information has hampered effective resolution and the prevention of recidivism. This study obtained information about the hoarders, animals, charges, prosecution, sentencing, and recidivism for fifty-six cases identified through media reports.

The Paradox of Animal Hoarding and The Limits of Canadian Criminal Law, Kathryn M. Campbell, Animal Legal & Historical Center (2012).


Related cases

Table of Cases Related to Hoarding


Related laws

Hawaii's New Animal Hoarding Law (HI ST § 711-1109.6)

Illinois' Definition of "Companion Animal Hoarder" - 510 ILCS 70/2.10



Related Links


Web Center Links:

Cruelty Laws Topic Area

External Links:

The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium at Tufts University - http://www.tufts.edu/vet/cfa/hoarding/


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