Picture this: Your next door neighbor, a kindly old lady who you've known practically all your life, suddenly gets forced into the back of a police cruiser, brandishing a shiny set of handcuffs. Why? Did she have one too many speeding tickets that she just didn't pay? Not likely; the woman drives slower than a snail can walk. Perhaps she was selling illegal contriband to minors? No, she'd sooner cart herself to the police station than even think about that. So what is it?
What if I told you it was because she owned more than her share of cats? But that's silly, right? Who gets arrested for having a few pets? It's not like she was abusing them. That's just not her! Sadly, it doesn't matter how much she cared for the little critters. The fact of the matter is, your neighbor wasn't keeping just three or four cats. No, they found sixteen malnourished felines in her mobile home. You always thought her house smelled kind of funny.
As it turns out, your loving, elderly neighbor was an animal hoarder. And to be honest, what she had was only a mild offense. In some cases of animal hoarding, people can have as many as hundreds of animals trapped in small, unsanitary confinements. The poor conditions that these pets are forced under isn't always due to neglect or abuse, but rather because their owners simply can't afford to care for their charges. And even when they seek help, it's hard for them to let go of the creatures they've raised.
But what separates the animal lovers from the proverbial "Crazy Cat Ladies"? On average, animal lovers won't have an overabundance of pets. If they find that they can't care for their animals, they at least make sure they are placed in loving homes. However, hoarders will not only hold onto their pets, but will find ways to acquire more.
Also, the pets of hoarders will tend to be disease ridden and/or malnourished. Whether this is due to neglect or the inability for the owner to properly care for the animals depends on the offender. In some cases, animals will have defects due to inbreeding as a result. That's not to say that breeders are animal hoarders, as their goal is to find homes for the pets they breed.
Hoarders of any kind are almost always oblivious to the state of their homes. They could be living in the equivilant of an over used litterbox and not notice. This not only effects the health of the pets, but also any other residents of the home.
So what do you do if you suspect your neighbor or even a loved one is hoarding their pets?
Contact your nearest vet or humane society immediately. The earlier you take action, the better the chances of getting help for the hoarder before things escalate to the police. Also try and keep in contact with the animals. Offer to help clean their home or even to get them neutered. Every little bit helps.
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