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Some people collect stamps or coins as a hobby. These collections are harmless and provide the collectors with a source of joy and relaxation. Collecting things becomes detrimental when it is the sole focus of that person's activities or the collections begin to overtake the person and their residence. The tragedy is further compounded when the person collects living animals. A dog hoarder is someone who keeps large numbers of dogs without the ability to properly care for them.
The proper care of animals at its most basic level involves providing adequate food, shelter, water, veterinary care and a safe, sanitary living environment. Dog hoarders are unable to provide all or most of these things to the animals in their care and are in denial about their ability to care for the animals they have. Simply put, a dog hoarder is someone who has too many dogs to care for properly.
Animal hoarding is not a term used to define people who breed dogs, rescue dogs or keep large numbers of dogs as companions. The distinguishing factor is the ability to provide care. A person who rescues and finds homes for dogs or breeds dogs is not a dog hoarder. People involved in these activities do sometimes become dog collectors, however, and refuse to give up their animals.
Hoarders frequently suffer from delusions, obsessive-compulsive disorder or other mental illnesses. Compulsive hoarding is considered a mental illness and can be managed using therapy and medication. There is no legal standard for distinguishing hoarding cases. Most jurisdictions that handle hoarder cases involving live animals can only pursue legal action based on the local animal cruelty laws.
The effects of hoarding animals are far-reaching. The animals in the care of the dog hoarder may be malnourished, sickly and left to wallow in their own filth. The same situation often extends to the hoarder, who may suffer from a lack of care, personal hygiene and nutrition. Some diseases can pass from dogs to humans and to other animals in contact with this environment.
Psychological and physical trauma is a lasting consequence for both the animal and the dog hoarder. Dogs have been known to turn on one another or on their guardian, in cases of severe overcrowding due to hoarding. Because of a lack of individual attention, the animals are often untrained and may develop feral tendencies.
Dogs displaying excessive fear, aggression or physical illness due to hoarding are often euthanized. Other dogs removed from dog hoarders are frequently cleaned up, nursed back to health and placed in new homes with the help of animal welfare and rescue organizations. The influx of dogs from a hoarding situation taxes an already stressed infrastructure, causing problems for animal welfare organizations and veterinarians. Hundreds of volunteers are sometimes needed to deal with the aftermath of hoarding situations.
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