Sunday, July 18, 2010


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 or else you can get it from this website: 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.


  1. Not sure what to say; I'm certainly glad you wrote about it, as it's more than just a "problem" and it needs to be brought to people's attention. What a heartbreak for the pets and apparently for the people who do this.
    Love, AP

  2. I remember the KC rescue. I drove there pulling a trailer loaded with a ton of dog food donated to BRAT to feed them. I went to Wal-Mart and bought every large crate they had, so that I could take some of the dogs from there to a kennel in Arkansas for BRAT, and had to stop and buy tarps and rope to tie it down to cover the crates, because I drove into a terrible ice storm. I could only drive about 30 mph, and kept stopping every so often to check on the dogs, and make sure that they were not freezing (there were at least 2 dogs in each crate, so that they could curl up together.)
    And, I had to have one of the KC dogs put down later, because she was so poorly socialized that she could not be handled, even after a few months, and had badly bitten several people trying to help her, and bit me when I picked her up from the vet clinic where her foster mom (not a BRAT person) had dumped her. It was so terribly sad, and my heart just ached for days, because even though she was physically healthy, she was so emotionally damaged that she could not be saved.
    It aches now, just remembering it.
    Jacque Holdaway

  3. Dear Aunt Jacque,
    Thanks for writing your comment and telling everybody more about the KC basenji rescue. Mom says that she remembers very well when you came and picked up all those basenjis and took them to Oklahoma in your trailer. Lots of nice BRAT people and BCOA people came and got dogs and took them in all different directions, and that's how a lot of them were saved. But it was still sad that many dogs were sick or that they couldn't ever learn to trust people. I wish we could cure people of hoarding animals, but I guess that's easier said than done.
    Your friend, Piper

  4. there is a situation in my neighborhood. Over 75 cats were taken from this home and I believe 60 had to be put down. What was done with the house? The odor still continues.

  5. Dear Anonymous,
    I am sorry to hear about this situation and I feel sad about the cats that were in it. I have heard that the odor in these places is really, really bad. I wish they had done something about the odor in the house you are talking about. You probably don't like to keep smelling it!

  6. The show CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING is currently looking for people who own more animals than they can properly care for and need help - whether they have a houseful of rabbits, reptiles, birds or common household pets.

    People can submit their Animal Hoarding story through Animal Planet's show site and click Get Help Now (Submit Your Story)

    Copy and paste:

  7. The last picture of the person holding all of the kittens has obviously been photoshopped. In the picture,there are actually only five kittens.

  8. how can peple be so cruel to such sweet little animals?? i know youh need a life bt come one dont live it thru them or try too=\

  9. breaks my heart to see such things and the fact that it is a real issue to be acknowledged and dealt with. These people need serious help and the animals need our help as well. They did not ask for such conditions to live in this world. We are all connected and it is our responsiblity as fellow beings and inhabitants of this earth to care and respect all living things....including animals and the earth itself. Thank you for bringing this to light and hopefully this awareness will improve the lives of their existence. Thank you

  10. this is the worst tyoe of abuse to animals its the worst kind cause no animal should have to live like that

  11. I feel bad for those animals. I am a dog lover and I have 2 Husky and 1 rat terrier, But I am not that obsessive!

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    1. I'm glad you are not the Barbara Erickson who was hoarding dogs! Thank you for caring about animals that are in these bad situations. I think the people who hoard animals are mentally ill, and that is why they can't see that they are hurting the animals instead of helping them.