Animal Hoarding

When does gathering animals and careing for them cross the line from being a hobby and a passion to a problem, a mental disorder, a life threating issue for man and beast?  In truth, I think it may be seldom recognized except in situations where finances or health do not allow the continued quality care of the animals involved.    Hasn't it always been the case that if you have money the things you do are "eccentric" but if you don't those same things are crazy.
As amusing as that may seem, I do think that it holds more than a grain of truth.  The fact is I never really considered the "animal hoarder" definition until someone mentioned it in a comment on one of my blog posts.  I laughed at first, the image of the "hoarders" show in my head (not realizing there was an Animal Hoarders show), but the more I looked into it the more I had to recognize that maybe this person was right.  Maybe the woman in question was an animal hoarder.  Maybe she did have a real, honest mental issue.

Does she fit the definition of an Animal Hoarder
Let me start by telling you that when it comes to equine behaviour, training and understanding horses there is in my personal opinion no one more skilled.  The love she has for these animals is reflected in her innate abilities to communicate with the animals.
That being said, she has had numerous run-ins with the SPCA over concern for the space, feed, water, and shelter she provides for more than 30 horses (and growing) (In fact she is currently facing charges in court regarding this issue).  She has alientated friends and family over pasture bills, and not moving horses off pasture when promised, or imposing on them to help her move horses when her truck or trailer is not working (she has no pasture of her own to support these horses).  She has run up bills for hay and pasture and vets while her family struggles to just to keep a roof over their head and food on the table.
When a family member tries to talk to her about concern over the animals, and considering selling some of the horses so the expenses of the others can be afforded she becomes violently angry to the point of getting physically violent. When the problem comes to a major head and she has to move horses to a location her spouse is adamantly against she kicks the spouse out and ends the long-term relationship, beating him enough that he has to go to the hospital and she is charged by police.
This hang on to all the horses at all costs (friends, family, home, health, etc) seems to me to fall into the definition of an "animal hoarder" but then again I am not qualified to make that judgement.  Unfortunately how do you get a person like this to even consider they have a problem?  How do you convince them to seek out some counselling or advice (which was suggested several times  over the years resulting in explosive anger)?
I don't know what I can do, or even if I can do anything?  She swears (and I believe her) that without her horses she can't go on.  Can she really be helped, or is it just my biased opinion and problem.
What I do know is that I would hate to see anyone else in this situation.  If you think you know someone with this challenge have a look at the resources below, they may help you and your friend.  If you know of other resources please let me know so I can add them hear.  Unfortunately missing from many of these resources is the affect this behaviour can have on the people close to the hoarder.

Identifying An Animal Hoarder
This description has been taken from an article in The Examiner and has been developed by Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC).

- someone who accumulates a large number of animals;
- fails to provide minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation and veterinary care;
- fails to act on the deteriorating condition of the animals (including disease, starvation and even death); and
- fails to act on the deteriorating condition of the environment (severely overcrowded and unsanitary conditions), or the negative impact of the collection on their own health and well-being.
- most hoarders collected dogs or cats;
- men more often collected dogs, and women more often collected cats.
- nearly two-thirds of study's participants were women and 70% were unmarried.
- social isolation was common but appeared to result from the hoarding behavior rather than causing it
- most reported their collecting started in childhood
- many had no telephone, public utilities or plumbing, and many hoarded inanimate objects as well
- many felt their animals gave them "unquestioning and uncritical love"
- they viewed themselves as rescuers of suffering or unloved animals
- dead or sick animals were discovered in 80% of reported cases, but more than half of the hoarders would not acknowledge the problem
- in 69% of cases, animal feces and urine accumulated in living areas, and over one-quarter of the hoarders' beds were soiled with feces or urine
- hoarders justified their behavior by citing an intense love of animals, the feeling that animals were surrogate children, the belief that no one else would or could take care of them, and the fear that the animals would be euthanized
- typically, animals played significant roles in the hoarders' childhoods, which was often marked by chaotic, inconsistent and unstable parenting
- 60% of the hoarders studied were repeat offenders

August 2011 Horse Hoarding Update

Mountain View Gazette on June 28th stated Ms. Thompson pleaded guilty and was fined $1000 and prohibited from owning more than 10 horses during the next five years.
To some that may seem like a solution, but in reality it is little more than a speeding ticket on the road to more disaster. The sad fact is “owning” horses just means they can't be directly owned by her. There is nothing stopping her from transferring ownership of the horses to a family or friend, but still keeping the horses. At the time of her assault charges she disappeared with close to 30 horses which means now there are at least 20 in limbo somewhere. Nor does this judgement prevent her from taking in other horses into her care

One of the Basset Hounds that was in this persons care was found wandering the back-country approximately two hours North of Edmonton.  Thankfully this animal was rescued and has successfully been rehomed.
Animal Hoarding Resources and References