Clear Space Living
Clear Space Living

by Karen Kingston & Richard Kingston

by Karen Kingston & Richard Kingston


Clear Space Living Blog

Animal hoarding

Animal hoarding is thankfully quite rare, but like other forms of hoarding, it's on the increase.

A woman once approached me after a space clearing workshop to ask if I would fly to Italy at her expense to space clear her mother’s home, which had been on the market for a long time and hadn’t sold. I was willing to do this, although I explained I would need to discuss it with her mother first. It’s a firm principle that I never space clear a home unless invited by one of the heads of the household to do so.

She said this would be fine, but I could sense she wasn’t telling me the whole story. Sure enough, after quite a bit of questioning, she eventually admitted it wasn’t just her mother living in the house. It was her mother and 30 cats!

I declined to do the consultation at this point. Space clearing can very effectively change the energy of a home to help it sell more quickly, but no buyer in their right mind wants a place that stinks of years of cat pee from a house full of moggies. I told her to ask her mother to get in touch with me when the cats had been reduced to a more reasonable number and the house had been cleaned, but I never heard from her or her mother again.

Animal hoarding

This is a fairly tame example of animal hoarding. A much more extreme case was a couple renting a 2 bedroom farmhouse in Oregon, USA, who were arrested in 2003 for keeping 552 dogs on the property – about 200 outside and the rest inside – all malnourished and living in filthy conditions, ankle-deep in dog poop. There’s a vivid description of the whole story in Inside Animal Hoarding: The Case of Barbara Erickson and Her 552 Dogs by Arnold Arluke and Celeste Killeen.

On the day they were rescued, the dogs were so sick and starving that although 30 mothers had recently whelped, not a single puppy was found – they had all been eaten by other dogs. The couple were arrested and charged with 134 counts of misdemeanour animal abuse (the 134 dogs that had to be euthanized) and 418 counts of misdemeanour animal neglect (the 418 dogs who survived and were mostly found new homes).

Why do people hoard animals?

Many animal hoarders find it easier and safer to form relationships with animals than with people. Dogs, in particular, offer a loyalty that few humans could ever match. They love you just as you are. Often this affinity with animals develops in childhood as a result of not receiving enough love or affection from caregivers around them, which is then continued into adult life. Many animal hoarders, like Barbara Erickson, grow up in a chaotic, traumatic, or abusive environment, where a pet may be their only reliable friend.

Other animal hoarders feel compelled to rescue homeless animals or save them from other fates. Many have some form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and also hoard junk as well as animals. They have an inability to let go of anything. Some have delusional disorders, addiction problems, or other psychological disorders.

This video gives insights into the minds and emotions of some types of animal hoarders. One woman, living in a trailer with 80 dogs, used to work as a bank teller until looking after her dogs became a full-time occupation.

ABC News report on The Life of Animal Hoarders

Nearly all animal hoarders deny they have a hoarding problem. They just don’t see it that way.

How prevalent is animal hoarding?

There are around 1,500 cases of animal hoarding each year in the US, mostly cats and dogs, but also sometimes farm animals and exotic species. The numbers are on the increase, and this may be because there are more actual cases or because there is now more public awareness of the problem resulting in more being reported.

It’s on the increase in Europe, too, and in all Westernized countries where people keep animals as pets. As far as I know, it’s unheard of in ethnic cultures where animals are reared for food rather than domesticated for companionship.

Copyright © Clear Space Living Ltd 2011

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4 comments on “Animal hoarding”

  1. Soleika Roth

    I have seen about this on ‘Animal Cops’. It is sad that that happens but I think the rule they have in a lot of states in North America is that legally a household can only keep four dogs, which is a bit extreme way to deal with the situation. I think it should go on size of land. I know a very respectable lovely lady with 7 dogs, she has lots of space for them and doesn’t keep them out of compulsion. P.S did you read about that wild monkey who kept an abandoned kitten for a pet? it was in Asia.

  2. Tweets that mention Animal hoarding | Karen Kingston's Blog --

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Danie* Herger, Karen Kingston. Karen Kingston said: Insights into the mind and emotions of animal hoarders […]

  3. J Braden

    I’ve always found this a human tragedy from the standpoint that people crave affection and can’t get it from another human. Their pets become their lives and in turn the pet owners become more and more closed to human contact. Hoarders are the extreme of an epidemic of pet owners who are less and less able to reach out and be satisfied by their own human kind. We certainly are becoming distorted in our human values.

  4. I have one of the dogs rescued from Barbara Ericsons home in Eastern Oregon. I have the book but have not been able to read some of the more gory details and have not finished the book. I am constantly curious about the facts of the rescue of these dogs. Once when in the area spoke with a gentleman who helped Barbara with the dogs at times, he was quite impressed with the fact that Barbara spent $1000.00 a month on dog food, but did not grasp the fact that this was less than enough to feed the number of dogs that she had, to say nothing of the logistics of feeding the dogs (my dog has a permanently scared ear from what the vets believe was probably a food fight). I also spoke with a woman who spoke with Barbara the day she was arrested and had questioned how many dogs Barbara had in her van that day. Barbara insisted that there were only 8 dogs in the van, in fact the count was 44 and some were dead when she was stopped that same day.

    One holdover effect that I see in my dog is that he really does not like to be dirty and still after all of these years is not fully trusting of adults he does not know. He will freeze in his tracks if there is someone he does not know walking up behind him.

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Karen Kingston

Leading expert in Space Clearing, Clutter Clearing, and Conscious Living

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