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Health Risks Of Animal Hoarding

Health Risks Of Animal Hoarding Graphic

Animal hoarding is defined as keeping several animals while not being able to provide minimal standards of care. The hoarder might not be able to meet the needs of the animals, and may also not address health issues the animals may be experiencing. It is considered a form of animal cruelty.

But apart from the welfare of the animals, there is also a health risk to the person who hoards animals, mostly due to unsanitary conditions in the home.

Health Risks of Hoarding Animals

In most animal hoarding cases, the living conditions of the animals and the hoarder are really poor. This can cause several health problems to the person/people living with large numbers of animals.

Exposure to ammonia

Animal urine contains ammonia. This chemical can cause respiratory irritation, especially if the hoarder has asthma or allergies. Ammonia can also sting the nose and eyes.

People who hoard animals often become "nose blind" to the strong scent of urine and ammonia. This may seem like a blessing, but not being able to smell the ammonia means they don't realize they're being exposed, which can worsen health problems.

Respiratory problems

It's not just ammonia that can cause respiratory problems. Animal dander, fur, and mold can also trigger allergic reactions or asthma symptoms in those living in a hoarding house.


Animal feces, vomit, and any bodily fluids are considered biohazards.

In severe animal hoarding cases, animals may be dead or dying. The decomposing bodies of the animals release harmful pathogens - bloodborne and airborne - which can make those living in the house sick.

Exposure to these pathogens can result in gastrointestinal and respiratory issues and diseases.

Biohazards will also pose a health risk to the other animals kept in the house.

Dealing with biohazards is not as easy as simply wiping a couple of surfaces. You'll need the assistance of a professional biohazard decontamination company, like Chore-ology, to safely and properly clean the home.

Tripping and injury

A hoarder's house is usually full of clutter. Add small animals to the mix, and suddenly the entire house becomes a tripping hazard. This is especially concerning for elderly hoarders or those who live alone.

The more animals on the property, the higher the risk of falling.

Animals can also cause injury to the hoarder. Agitated animals may scratch or bite their owner, and these wounds can fester if not properly cleaned.

Illness and infection

Living in close, unclean quarters with a large number of animals results in the spread of diseases from animal to human.

Toxoplasmosis, salmonellosis, and psittacosis are all serious diseases that can be transferred from unhealthy animals. Children and seniors are especially vulnerable to these diseases.

As mentioned above, animals may also bite or scratch the people in the home, and if left untreated, the wounds can become infected. This can result in sepsis (blood poisoning).


Parasitic infections, such as flies, ticks, mites, worms, and fleas, are common in animal hoarding situations. When left untreated, a person bitten by one of these parasites can become seriously ill.

Hoarding and Harm to the Animals

Animal hoarding not only poses health risks to people but to the animals themselves.

Animals in hoarding situations develop respiratory and viral diseases, worms, and injuries.

Most injuries are caused to the animals fighting because they're kept cramped up in a home, with no freedom to move. The diseases are because the animals spend most of their lives in animal waste.

Animals in hoarding situations can also develop mental and emotional trauma, which can cause them to act out and be poorly socialized. These aggressive tendencies also put the hoarder at risk, as the animal may attack them.

Characteristics of Animal Hoarders

Most animal hoarders have the same characteristics. It is good to be aware of what to look out for, in case you need to help them out:

  • Collects large numbers of animals.

  • Failure to provide the space, nutrition, and veterinary care that the animals need.

  • Excuses for the living conditions or the state of the animals.

  • Despite deteriorating conditions, they continue to collect animals.

What to Do if You Suspect Someone Is Hoarding Animals

Animal hoarding is defined by the presence of a lot of animals in someone's home. In most hoarding situations, the person is unable to provide veterinary care for the animals, and the home itself is full of animal feces, urine, and other waste.

Dealing with someone hoarding animals can be tough, as they may not believe that they are involved in a type of animal cruelty, and claim that they love all their animals.

Here are some steps you can take if you suspect someone is hoarding animals:

  • Call your local authorities, including animal control, the police department, or a local veterinarian.

  • Contact adult protective services or a mental health professional for advice.

  • When dealing with the hoarder, remain compassionate and understanding. The hoarder needs to understand that they must accept the help provided for the benefit of their animals.

  • Offer to help care for the animals if the hoarder is allowed to keep them.

  • If the animals go to a shelter, offer your time to volunteer there. This will help give the hoarder peace of mind that their animals were not simply abandoned.

  • Contact a hoarding cleanup company like Chore-ology to clean the home of the animal hoarder.

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