Up to 250,000 animals per year are victims of hoarders. Some of us don’t often think about animal hoarding when we consider the various forms of animal neglect, but the truth is, it’s a very damaging and cruel practice.
Animal hoarding is defined as someone having a large number of animals that they can’t take care of.
Many hoarders have as many as hundreds of cats or dogs in their homes. Animals living in such close proximity without adequate care puts them all at risk, as any disease can spread fast and they can’t possibly get enough food.
There might also be aggression between the animals, causing fights. It also puts the humans living there at risk! So, you have an animal hoarding neighbor, and you’re not quite sure what to do about it. Here’s how you can help.
Assess the Situation
The first thing you should do is look at the situation from afar and determine if you need to take the steps to dealing with an animal hoarding neighbor. Someone may have a few animals, which isn’t necessarily your ideal situation, but they’re perfectly equipped to take care of them all. However, there are various signs someone is actually hoarding such as a deteriorating house, strong smell of ammonia, unsocialized animals, etc.
If you’ve been looking at the situation and you’re quite sure they’re hoarding, it’s time to take action. Animals don’t have voices to advocate for themselves, so someone needs to — and it can affect the community in quite a horrible way too if this is allowed to continue. The accumulation of smells, trash, and other things can attract other animals into the area and spread disease.
Can You Approach the Neighbor?
If the neighbor has simply taken on too many stray animals and is struggling, it may not be an extreme case of hoarding.
They might need help finding good homes for some, or a no-kill animal shelter, and appreciate an offer of help. If the situation is minor like this — and you’re on good terms with the neighbor — offering your assistance is an extremely kind thing to do.
However, if you don’t know the neighbor well or suspect they may be hoarding due to mental illness (as many people often are), approaching them yourself may not be the best idea. Remember, if they are legitimately hoarding, they will be in denial.
Contact Social Workers
Your first step should be finding out if there’s a local government you can contact who can send a social worker to investigate the situation. Although you might be disgusted by the animal cruelty, and understandably so, remember this person may be suffering and a compassionate approach is the best way forward first.
A social worker will be able to evaluate the person’s mental state and determine the appropriate steps forward.
Ask a Vet or Humane Society For Help
If you don’t live in an area like a city where finding a social worker through your local government is easy and accessible, contacting a humane society, a vet’s office, or the ASPCA can help.
Although many of these organizations may not be able to step in themselves due to legalities or simply being overwhelmed with the work they already do for stray animals, they should be able to point you in the direction of who to contact. If you don’t have success with the first person you try, keep going.
Remember, there are usually many people in the area who work with animals and although it can be disheartening, trying a few people to find out the best place to go for help is usually well worth it.
Volunteer Your Time
If you want to really go the extra mile when trying to solicit help from an animal welfare organization, you could offer to volunteer some of your time. Rescues often don’t have the resources to get involved in situations because they don’t have the manpower.
Cages need to be cleaned, dogs need to be walked and socialized, and animals often need to be fostered until they can find permanent homes. If you’re an animal lover, and you have the room and time, offer to help out as much as possible. If you have the money, you could also make a donation to the place that helps out with the animals themselves.
In many cases of hoarding — especially if it was caused by mental illness — the individual responsible will not be able to acquire more animals. If they do, or are allowed to keep some of their own and you’re on good terms, stay in touch with them and help them out. For example, you could offer to help with transport when it comes to getting their animals spayed and neutered.
It can take up a lot of mental energy to become involved with an animal hoarder, but these people deserve compassion. You should also remember it affects you too! Hoarding makes a mess in the community and decreases the value of neighboring houses. You don’t want your house to take a hit because of that.
Take Action With Your Animal Hoarding Neighbor
Sometimes, it feels easier to turn a blind eye to a situation like an animal hoarding neighbor. It’s the last thing you want to get involved with, because it might drain your energy and you’re not even sure where to start.
Remember, it’s unethical, cruel, and in the long run, can affect your house! Take action, be compassionate, and you’ll be glad you did. If you need a clean-up after a situation like this, contact Spaulding Decon today. We can help with any type of residential hoarding situation, and even provide assistance with moving items, plus referrals to hoarding psychology resources.
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