Last week’s news of 1,000 or so animals removed from a Vinton residence brought a phrase that is new to many: Animal Hoarding.

Yesterday, Benton County Attorney David Thompson filed a legal document entitled a “Petitition For Disposition of Threatened Animals,” which is a necessary legal step toward officially removing the animals from the home of Marshall and Barbara (Babs) Galkowski. A hearing on that issue is set for 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 29. This is not a criminal case, but a civil case designed to serve as the legal means of officially transferring the animals. It also mentions assessing the costs of caring for those animals. See the document here: bg

While there is no law specfically against animal hoarding in Iowa, Cedar Valley Humane Society spokesman Preston Moore called the Vinton case the “worst case of animal hoarding” he has seen.

According to an on-line article on the Michigan State University Animal Legal & Historical Center’s web site, the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC) identifies the following characteristics as common in all hoarders:

  • Accumulating a large number of animals, which has overwhelmed that person’s ability to provide even minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care;
  • Failing to acknowledge the deteriorating condition of the animals (including disease, starvation, and even death) and the household environment (severe overcrowding, very unsanitary conditions); and
  • Failing to recognize the negative effect of the collection  his or her own health and well-being, and on that of other household members.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund estimates that as many as 250,000 animals each year are impacted by hoarders.

Only two states, Illinois and Hawaii, have specific laws preventing animal hoarding. Most cases of hoarding that end up in court systems are prosecuted under animal abuse or neglect statutes, according to another hoarding article on the MSU Animal Center’s web site. The motivation for many of these hoarders is a misguided effort to help, according to this article: “Animal hoarders seem to feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility for protecting animals and unrealistically attempt to care for an unreasonable number of animals in order to do s