Police, animal control, health departments, zoning officers, state veterinarians, humane agencies and sheriffs, family and
friends of the hoarders are all involved. It takes time and money for workers to clear the home of the animals, sanitize the
environment and investigate. Housing the confiscated animals and giving them proper medical care adds to the burden.
"From a legal standpoint, there are lots of specific evidentiary requirements before you can establish and discuss the idea
there are characteristics of hoarders that can be recognized by veterinarians in their general practices," Flemming says.
States making a difference
Illinois Gov. George Ryan signed the Companion Animal Hoarder bill into law in 2001, making it the first state to mandate
psychological counseling for companion animal hoarders. The bill also includes more severe penalties for neglect and cruelty
treatment. Aggravated cruelty becomes a Class A misdemeanor and aggravated cruelty, all of which becomes a Class 4 felony.
Animal torture becomes a Class 3 felony, bringing three to five years of jail time.
The law also mandates psychological counseling for juveniles convicted of animal cruelty.
While most states do not have clear-cut laws against animal hoarding, the issue is becoming more widely discussed and addressed.
"HARC plans to publish an intervention manual this year, with excerpts taken from experts attending a workshop hosted by Angell
Memorial Animal Hospital," Patronek says. "When the problem is more widely understood, states will make changes. For now,
we are taking baby steps."