Thirty-three Poodles were sharing a two-bedroom house with an elderly couple in Queens, New York, according to the New York Post. Animal rescuers reported that Poodles were “literally everywhere, scurrying under sofas, under beds, peeking out at us.”
The Poodles were not being walked, did not go outside, so the conditions inside the home were as you might imagine.
A social worker visiting the owners reported the conditions to the ASPCA. Officials are certain they can find homes for the Poodles, who are small dogs, under twenty pounds.
The elderly couple will not face criminal charges. Although it seems like animal cruelty (and it is), animal hoarding is a mental disorder. The people need treatment, not prosecution.
Animal hoarding typically begins as an effort to provide a loving home for a reasonable number of pets, but then it gets out of control and the owners feel overwhelmed. They are reluctant to seek help, fearing that the animals will be euthanized. Often they don’t see the real conditions under which they are living. They believe that their animals give them unquestioning and uncritical love and they give it back.
According to Gini Barett, director of an animal rescue group:
Collectors exist in almost every community, large or small, rural or urban. They are in a state of denial that prevents them from seeing the filth or understanding their animals are sick, dying or dead. They need help. Psychiatric Times
Over 600 animals were found in the home of a Los Angeles woman, who insisted the animals were well-cared for in spite of the filthy conditions of her home.
Collectors are often elderly and more frequently female, but recently a 47-year-old South Carolina man was found living in “very filthy conditions with a 3-year-old boy, 45 cats, 3 dogs and a pet squirrel.”
There is a difference between animal collecting and animal hoarding. Collecting is a hobby. Hoarding is pathological. Here are the criteria of animal hoarding, according to the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium
- More than the typical number of companion animals
- Inability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and veterinary care, with this neglect often resulting in starvation, illness, and death
- Denial of the inability to provide this minimum care and the impact of that failure on the animals, the household, and human occupants of the dwelling