Hoarding of inanimate objects has been linked to a variety of psychological disorders, and a significant percentage of animal hoarders are eventually institutionalized or placed under some type of protective care. The hoarding of inanimate objects is a relatively new area of study in the psychological and psychiatric literature, and even less has been reported about the sub-category of animal hoarding. Experts are still unsure of the exact causes for hoarding, and since the behavior is seen in a range of disorders, it is likely that a variety of conditions can ultimately result in pathological hoarding.
Hoarding is characterized in DSM-IV as a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). There is very little literature about treatment, and what exists suggests that hoarders may be particularly resistant to both psychotherapy and commonly used medications.
Although a long tradition of civil liberties in the US provides people with broad latitude to live as they choose, those choices are much more limited when dependent adults (elders, disabled) or children are present. Within the past decade, the links between deliberate animal abuse and spouse / child abuse have been well-documented. The relationship to severe animal neglect, as occurs in hoarding situations, and child / elder neglect is beginning to be recognized. Although in most cases hoarders do live alone, possibly 15% have either dependent adults or minor children present. Often these human victims receive help only AFTER and BECAUSE animal protection groups intervened because of concern over animal mistreatment. Greater efforts to cross-train human social service personnel and animal humane investigators will help bridge this gap.
Self-neglect is an increasing problem among our aging population, and self-care is naturally more difficult when the unsanitary conditions and dysfunctional conditions associated with hoarding are imposed. There is also recognized higher frequency of mental and physical disorders, as well as deficits in health care.
Learn more at the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium