Hoarding 2: Community Impact

Paper 9: Animal Hoarding - Human or Animal Welfare?

David O'Shannessy, Chief Inspector and Karen Thorne, Programs Development Manager, RSPCA NSW

"What is the RSPCA doing about animal hoarders?" This is a question that we are increasingly asked and the answer is that the RSPCA responds to any situation where animals are suffering from abuse or neglect.

Interestingly though, when this question was recently posed by a mental health professional it raised its own questions: exploring and answering these forms the basis of our workshop:-

  • - Is there a community expectation that the RSPCA will deal with the complex issue of animal hoarding alone because, due to the large number of animals usually involved, it is predominantly viewed as an animal welfare issue?

  • - Is our organisation equipped to deal with all of the concerns involved in animal hoarding cases, especially those that relate to the hoarder(s) themselves?

  • - How can we work more effectively with human welfare agencies to ensure a co-ordinated approach in dealing with animal hoarding and thus ensure better outcomes for humans and animals?

Whilst the RSPCA is a recognised expert in animal welfare, anyone who deals with matters relating to animal abuse and neglect readily acknowledges that the welfare of animals and humans is closely connected.

A large number of investigations by RSPCA Inspectors can trace an animal welfare problem back to a human welfare issue; and though we have, from necessity, become more skilled at dealing with the human side of animal welfare we can only ever be considered as "accidental counsellors".

We hope that by developing partnerships with human welfare agencies we can continue to enhance our skills in helping people. The reality is though, that in recognition of the particular areas of expertise of these agencies, we know that we can only ever be part of the solution to the problem of animal hoarding and that an integrated approach is the key.