Model Laws

Animal Hoarding


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Purpose

To establish a separate offense of animal hoarding in order to (1) protect the health and welfare of animals in hoarding situations, (2) aid in the prosecution of animal hoarders, and (3) help to rehabilitate or penalize animal hoarders for inhumane treatment of animals.


Sec. 2. Definitions

For the purposes of this act:

  • Having more than the typical number of animals;
  • Failure or inability to provide minimum standards of care for those animals;
  • A denial that one is unable to provide minimum care; and
  • A persistence in continuing to accumulate and keep animals, despite failing to properly care for them

Minimum Standards of Care is defined as:

  • Providing proper nutritional sustenance, adequate shelter, and regular veterinary care to all animals in one's care and possession.


Sec. 3. Violations

  • A person is guilty of animal hoarding if they have more than the typical number of animals in their home, for which they are unable to or fail to provide minimum care.
  • The number of animals kept or in the possession of a person shall not be determinative of whether there has been a violation of this section, but may be considered as a factor in determining whether animals have been provided minimum care.
  • A person's affection for, humanitarian purpose, or rescue efforts in acquiring the animals is not a defense to a violation of this subdivision.



Sec. 4. Penalties

  1. A first violation of animal hoarding will be considered a misdemeanor offense. Subsequent violations and/or repeat offenders may raise the offense to a felony charge.
  2. Animals will be removed from the premises at a first violation of this law. Animals will be given necessary veterinary care and kept in a shelter during investigation and court proceedings at the cost of the hoarder. If a person is convicted of animal hoarding, any surviving animals will be put up for adoption by local shelters.
  3. Additionally, convicted offenders will be required to partake in psychological and/or psychiatric evaluation and treatment for a minimum of one year. All offenders must be cleared by a psychologist/psychiatrist before being legally allowed to own animals again. After being convicted a person will be limited to owning only a "reasonable" number of animals, as determined by the court of law.

Additional Commentary


Animal and Humane Welfare Concerns:

Animal Hoarding, while primarily an issue of animal welfare, it is not just a matter of cruelty to animals. Unlike many issues involving animal cruelty and abuse, animal hoarders are often unaware or unable to recognize the cruelty they are inflicting. Animals kept in hoarding situations are rarely given the minimum standards necessary to sustain life. Failure to do so often results in illness and death from starvation, spread of infectious diseases, and untreated injuries or medical conditions. In addition, hoarding is a problem that affects not only the health and welfare of the animals within the home, but also creates public health and safety issues for human occupants of the home. Failure to properly care for the large number of animals being hoarded quite often results in unsanitary living situations, such as feces and vomit covering floors and walls, dead animal bodies not being properly disposed, and filthy conditions that often attract insects and rodents. Although these hazards alone will often attract the attention of other social service agencies, these agencies are not equipped to deal with the animal welfare issues or care for the animals once they are discovered.


Issues barring criminalization of animal hoarding

(1) Many states can prosecute animal hoarding under animal cruelty laws, however state and county authorities are often reluctant to prosecute because these laws require them to charge hoarders with multiple counts of animal cruelty for each hoarded animal on the premises. In many cases animal hoarders have 10, 20, 50, or even 100 animals who are being inhumanely kept. This system requires prosecutors to obtain proof documenting the injuries, neglect and cruelty sustained by each individual animal. Prosecution becomes a lengthy and burdensome process. Allowing prosecution under one individual animal hoarding law, eases the prosecution's burden of proof, minimizes the strain on the courts, and allows the prosecution to still charge an offender with animal cruelty for cases that are easier to document.


(2) In addition, providing housing, food, and care for all confiscated animals during the lengthy prosecution is a financial burden that many municipalities are not willing to undertake. Outlawing animal hoarding would allow faster and easier prosecution of animal hoarders as well as lessening the financial burden on the municipalities.


(3) It is a popular myth that animal hoarding is not a real crime, or not a severe form of animal abuse. Many believe that animal hoarding is just the "crazy cat lady" down the street, but unfortunately this stereotype can sometimes be a reality. Animal hoarders have a tendency to start out innocently collecting animals off the street or from shelters, which can spiral into an uncontrollable number for which they are unable to adequately provide. Until law makers and officials understand that it is a serious psychological, humane, and sanitation problem, legislation will have little chance of passing and/or being enforced.



How is Animal Hoarding Defined? Tufts University, Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium.


AB 2981, 2008 Assem., (N.J. 2008).


HB 5946, 2008 H., (Mich. 2008).


Humane Care for Animals Act. 510 ILL.COMP.STAT. 70/2.10 (2002)


US Humane Society, Animal Hoarding Recommendations.


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