This is a very horrible and sad subject, not to mention being complicated, so I can't tell you everything there is to know about it. Even scientists don't know everything about it, but they are studying people who hoard animals so maybe they can understand better why they do this bad thing.
Of course, the people who are hoarding the animals don't think they are doing a bad thing. Usually, they will tell you that they love all their animals very much and take really good care of them. They don't want to give up their animals to anybody else, like especially not to a shelter, because they are afraid the animals will be put to sleep.
So they keep the animals, and they get more and more of them, and the real truth is that they can't take good care of the animals, and so the animals don't always get enough to eat and also they might have to sit around in cages in their own pee and poop. And they have to breathe all the bad smells from so much pee, which can hurt your lungs and your heart. Oh, and the animals don't get shots and medical care, and sometimes they keep having puppies or kittens, and that makes the situation get even worse.
Mom and I have been reading a book that's called Inside Animal Hoarding: The Case of Barbara Erickson and Her 552 Dogs. This book was written by Arnold Arluke and Celeste Killeen. It's about this woman and her husband who lived in Oregon, and in 2003 they had 552 dogs taken out of their house. Some of the dogs were dead already, and some had to be put to sleep because they were too sick to be saved. But more than 300 of them were saved by shelters and rescue groups. Mrs. Erickson had to go to jail for a while, and one of the authors, Celeste Killeen, talked to her a whole bunch and found out about her bad childhood and tried to understand why Mrs. Erickson would hoard so many dogs.
If you are interested in reading this book, you can get it from amazon.com or else you can get it from this website: http://www.animalhoarding.com/ which also has a lot of good information about animal hoarding.
Okay, so maybe you have several dogs or cats or ferrets or whatever, and you are wondering if you are an animal hoarder. Well, here are four things that you will usually see in people with this problem:
1. They don't give their animals enough clean space to live in, enough food to eat, or veterinary care.
2. They don't realize that they are failing to take good care of their animals, and that the animals are getting sick, and that their house is becoming yucky and smelly and not a nice place to live.
3. They just keep on getting more animals, even though they already aren't taking good care of the ones they have.
4. They deny that there is any problem with what they are doing, or that it is having a bad effect on the animals and the people that live in their house.
There are about 3,500 new cases of animal hoarding discovered each year in the U.S., affecting 250,000 animals. These are really big numbers, but the sad part is that lots of animal hoarders are not reported. This is because they usually don't invite people to their homes, on account of they don't want anyone to know how many animals they have. And if they keep most of the animals inside most of the time, it's hard for neighbors to know how many there are. Also the Animal Control people can't go into a house without a paper called a search warrant, and they can't get one if they don't see animal abuse going on outside the house.
Back in 2003, there was a case of animal hoarding right here in Kansas City, and the animals being hoarded were mostly basenjis! Mom told me all about this shocking event, and I found some old reports about it on the internet. What happened was that a woman and her daughter were breeding basenjis, but they stopped showing them or selling the puppies, and they ended up with more and more dogs. So when the Animal Control people finally came, they found about 160 dogs and 32 cats in a 5-room house and a few outdoor kennels.
The cats all had to be put to sleep because they were in very bad shape. But the Basenji Club of America raised about $10,000 to pay for medical care for the dogs. Then people drove to Kansas City in big trucks and vans, and they took the basenjis off to all different parts of the country to be fostered and adopted. And at the end, when the rest of the dogs had to be moved out by a certain date, Mom brought 6 of them to our house and put them in the garage in crates. They had to stay in the garage because they all had worms, and Mom did not want to give worms to her other dogs. And also she didn't think Gabe and Trixie would like having these dogs in the house.
Anyway, two of the basenjis left the next day to go to Kentucky, but the other 4 were here for several weeks. Mom started calling them "The Garage Girls." She took care of them and fed them and did all that kind of stuff for about 5 weeks. Two of the dogs coughed all the time, and the doctor said it was because they had bad hearts due to all the nasty air they breathed while they were in their first home. Also they had really bad teeth and not very strong leg muscles and they were scared of everything -- even more scared of everything than I am!
Well, I think that's all I'm going to try to tell you about animal hoarding. But I will just mention that the Animal Planet channel is going to start showing a series of 6 shows this Wednesday, July 21, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. And the name of this series is Confessions: Animal Hoarding. You can read more about it and see some little short clips from it here. And another place you can find out more about the sad subject of animal hoarding is at the site for The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium. Remember how I told you that scientists were studying people who hoard animals? Well, these are some of the main people who are doing the studies, so you can read about what they have learned so far.