When Is Too Many Pets Too Many? When Does It Become Animal Hoarding?

Amanda Chaves from HSI Latin America explains what this problem is and offers advice.


Last year the National Animal Health Service – Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal (SENASA) –  attended 69 cases of people who hoard pets in their homes; so far this year 19 complaints are recorded.

Why do situations like these happen and what should be done?


The subject is extremely complex, because it cannot be said that a person hoards animals because he or she has 20 cats and 10 dog. Or 12, 15 or 30 … The problem is not in the quantity, in a certain number, but in the state of those pets and even their owners.

This was made clear by Amanda Chaves Alvarado, who manages the Pet Program of Humane Society International (HSI) Latin America, a non-profit organization that looks after animal welfare and works in coordination with the SENASA.

“If there are many animals at home we visit, but in good condition, there is no problem. It may be someone who loves pets very much and has the means and time to take care of them. But, if you see conditions of overcrowding and there are bad odors, mice, sick dogs and cats, some to the point of dying, serious problems with fleas and ticks, etc., then we proceed to carry out the intervention by the competent authorities,” clarified Chaves.

A common sign that a person hoards animals is found in that individual’s refusal to permit others into his or her residence. The hoarder will make a myriad of seemingly reasonable excuses, all of which fall short of the reality of what is really going on at the property.

An animal hoarder is more than likely to withdraw from others as the situation becomes more overwhelming at the residence. Not all hoarders start off isolating themselves. However, as the number of animals increase, the associate problems mount, a hoarder becomes truly overwhelmed and lacks the emotional ability to interact or socialize with others.

Chaves recommends those who really present a condition like this, need a treatment and under the care of specialists, because even if an intervention occurs in the home, it is likely that the person relapses in their behavior.

“We have witnessed beautiful stories, happy endings,” said Chaves.

Signs that may indicate someone is an animal hoarder:

  • They have numerous animals and may not know the total number of animals in their care.
  • Their home is deteriorated (i.e., dirty windows, broken furniture, holes in wall and floor, extreme clutter).
  • There is a strong smell of ammonia, and floors may be covered with dried feces, urine, vomit, etc.
  • Animals are emaciated, lethargic and not well socialized.
  • Fleas and vermin are present.
  • Individual is isolated from community and appears to be in neglect himself.
  • Individual insists all animals are happy and healthy—even when there are clear signs of distress and illness.
  • Source: Aspca

The term “animal hoarding” refers to the compulsive need to collect and own animals for the sake of caring for them that results in accidental or unintentional neglect or abuse. Adaa.org;

La Nacion