Animal hoarding is not uncommon. In 2012, the RSPCA reported that 20,000 animals were believed to have been kept in hoarding conditions in NSW, and that 200 animal hoarding cases were uncovered in that year.
An animal hoarder is a person who accumulates a large number of animals, usually cats or dogs. People hoard animals for many different reasons. Some people are strongly attached to animals but unable to give adequate care and are usually unaware of the situation. Others may have initially tried to place animals, but ultimately only trust themselves to provide adequate levels of care. Some animal hoarders are breeders who initially breed for show or sale but who continue to breed even when conditions deteriorate. Other people are 'exploiters' who may claim to be breeders, but lack empathy for people or animals.
Due to health and safety risks, animal hoarding is considered more serious than hoarding possessions.
Characteristics common to animal hoarders include lack of minimum standards of space, nutrition, sanitation or veterinary care for the animals; inability to address the poor condition of the animals caused by starvation, overcrowding or poor sanitation; inability to see the detrimental effect on the animals, other people who may live there or the environment; and a compulsion or obsession to continue to maintain or amass animals despite a deteriorating environment. Many animal hoarders also deny or downplay that there is a problem.
Animals living in hoarding conditions often suffer a range of health issues including matted fur; untreated dental, eye, ear and wound infections, skin diseases, fleas, ticks, ear mites, lice, ringworm and maggots; intestinal parasites; anaemia from fleas or intestinal worms; and behavioural problems.