What to do if you suspect a client is an animal hoarder


Trust your gut and take action if you see red flags.

Animal hoarding has become a commonplace term these days, thanks to a number of reality TV shows on the issue. Unfortunately, for animals that suffer at the hands of a hoarder, that reality is grim.

It's likely that over the course of your veterinary career you will encounter a client who fits the description of an animal hoarder. According to Dr. Lila Miller, vice president of veterinary outreach at the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and past speaker at CVC Kansas City, it's critical to be able to identify the signs and take proper action. In honor of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, here are some key indicators of hoarding behavior:

> Perfuming or bathing the pet to conceal odors

> Using a surrogate pet to get medications for other unseen animals or attempting to get medication refills without bringing pets in to the veterinary clinic

> Inability or unwillingness to say how many pets are in the home

> Claiming to have just found an animal in deplorable condition

> Having a constantly changing parade of pets

> Office visits for problems related to poor preventive health, filth, overcrowding, and stress rather than chronic diseases

> Rarely bringing in the same animal twice

> Traveling great distances for care at odd hours

> Demonstrating an interest in acquiring even more animals

> Seeking heroic and futile care for animals just acquired.

When you suspect that someone is a hoarder, Dr. Miller recommends enlisting the help of authorities, who are better equipped to assist both the animal and human victims in these cases, rather than trying to handle the situation on your own. Resist the urge to enable an animal hoarder by simply offering discounted or free services for the animals in their care—that doesn't help resolve the problem and may actually compound it.

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Adam Christman
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