Is No Kill Another Name for Hoarding Editorial

2004 by Rich Avanzino

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

It's been alleged more than once, that no-kill shelters are institutionalized hoarders who use their non-profit status to raise money to add to their collections.

What is hoarding? There is a lot of good information on the subject, much from Tufts University's Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC).

HARC believes hoarding is pathological in nature and defines a hoarder as an individual who

  • Accumulates a large number of animals;
  • Fails to provide minimal nutrition, sanitation and veterinary care;
  • Fails to act on the deteriorating condition of the animals (including disease, starvation and even death), or the environment (severely overcrowded and unsanitary conditions); and
  • Fails to act on or recognize the negative impact of the collection on their own health and wellbeing.

One article profiles animal hoarders as:

  • 76% female, 46% of whom are 60 years of age or older
  • Mostly unmarried and living alone
  • Having, in 69% of cases, animal feces and urine accumulated in living areas; in more than 25% of cases, the hoarder's bed was soiled with urine or feces
  • Many times being unwilling to acknowledge the problem of dead or sick animals, which were discovered in 80% of reported cases.

A recent report in my local newspaper supports this profile. It describes a 64-year-old woman who was brought into custody after police discovered 196 live and six dead cats living in her home in filthy conditions. A psychologist's report concluded the woman was unable to rationally cooperate in her own defense.

Hoarding is a psychological problem that afflicts certain individuals. To call no-kill shelters hoarders is, in my opinion, provocative and irresponsible and serves no constructive purpose as far as animals are concerned.

There's no disputing that conditions in some animal shelters are substandard. There are still places where animals live in noisy, overcrowded, and dirty conditions without access to medical care. These situations are not exclusive to any one kind of facility. They can be found in animal control, traditional shelters and no-kill facilities - and none of them should be tolerated.

Animals go cage crazy in some shelters, either for lack of space, lack of social interaction, or length of stay. It's purported that in some no-kill shelters, misguided staff hang on to animals too long because they don't think adopters are good enough. It's also alleged that other shelters would rather put animals down than loosen screening standards. Both of these outcomes are tragic.

There are well-run shelters and there are badly run shelters. But hoarding is another matter entirely.

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