"There have been a variety of definitions for animal hoarding produced over the years, but there are common themes in how it is typically conceptualized," says Dr. Derek Bergeron, psychologist for Texas A&M University Counseling Services and satellite clinician at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
"Generally, animal hoarding is indicated by the accumulation of a large number of animals, overwhelming a person's ability to provide minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care.
Typically, failure to acknowledge the deteriorating condition of the animals (including disease, starvation, and even death) and the household environment (severe overcrowding, very unsanitary conditions) is demonstrated.
Similarly, there is typically a failure to recognize the negative effect of the collection on the hoarder's own health and well-being and on the well-being of any other household members."
According to Bergeron
, animal hoarders can cut across many demographics.
"The overwhelmed caregiver type is likely to be more situational, and these individuals typically have more insight into the situation," notes Bergeron
"They understand that there is a problem, which is why they feel overwhelmed.
These individuals generally feel a strong attachment to their animal, which makes addressing the situation more difficult for them."
Rescue hoarders feel that they have a mission in life to save and protect animals.
These individuals are often actively engaged in rescue work, and they may even own a shelter.
"Rescue hoarders often believe that they are the only people who can adequately care for their animals, and feel that animals would die without them," says Bergeron
"These hoarders have a strong need for control, and do feel in control of the situation despite the problems that exist."
The exploiter hoarders generally lack empathy for people and animals and are indifferent to the harm they cause.
Their main concern is to be in control.
"Exploiter hoarders do not feel a strong attachment to their animals, unlike the other two hoarder categories," explains Bergeron
"The individuals who are not aware of their disease may not necessarily believe that they are doing something 'wrong', but they may appreciate that there are consequences if other people discover their behavior," notes Bergeron
"Thus, some individuals hide their behavior, because they desire to continue hoarding animals."
It is important to identify the dangerous consequences for pets that animal hoarding can lead to.
"The nature of hoarding leads to deficits in basic areas of care such as providing food, medical care, and attending to sanitation," says Bergeron
"Overall, anecdotal evidence suggests that hoarding is a difficult problem to treat," explains Bergeron