Author Jessica A. Haynes

Author Jessica A. Haynes


by Jessica A. Haynes


I love animals. Over the years, I have shared my life with wonderful four-legged companions, mostly cats. Now I have two cats, Squeaker and Bugsy, plus my first rescue dog, Daisy Mae, from the Salinas Animal Shelter off Hitchcock Road.


Because I’ve given time, energy and donations to animal shelters across the country for years, I want to bring awareness and action that will create a better life for those unfortunate animals caught in the grips of hoarders.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of animal hoarding is: “Keeping a higher-than-usual number of animals as domestic pets without having the ability to properly house or care for them, while at the same time denying this inability.”

I recently had an enlightening interview with Gary Tiscornia, executive director of the SPCA for Monterey County. Tiscornia is a leader in preventing the hoarding of animals and bringing legal action to stop those who hoard.

Animals victims of hoarding

Animals victims of hoarding

Tiscornia is carrying on a tradition of preventing cruelty to animals that dates back to the 1880’s. That initial effort primarily began as a means to protect draft animals, (horses, mules, oxen) so they would not be overworked by their owners. This was a legal and compassionate move. Citations were issued to them to stop the cruelty and give the animals a better life.


Tiscornia describes a recent case in Seaside, CA where 51 cats were seized from a hoarder. These unfortunate animals were suffering from malnourishment, crowding, lack of veterinary car and poor sanitation including animal waste, and newspapers, trash and massive clutter were strewn throughout the house. Happily, the cats are all doing well are up for adoption at the SPCA for Monterey County.

A case is currently under investigation in which 48 animals were seized from inhumane conditions. In these similar cases, animals have suffered and died due to the harmful effects of crowding and lack of care.

It is difficult to stop hoarders because there is a very high rate of recidivism. It’s estimated to be close to 100 percent. Those found and stopped hoard animals again, Tiscornia said. What is being done to prevent this cruelty? The legal system is beginning to tip the scales on the side of the animals, and there has been enough evidence gathered to prove that hoarding is a mental disorder. With sufficient evidence, a hoarder can be prosecuted. Tiscornia says, “With a prosecution, conviction and sentencing allows our humane officers access to the hoarder’s property without a warrant, we can help the animals and the hoarder by preventing the acquisition of new animals.”

Hoarding Victims

Hoarding Victims


He adds, “The classic profile for a person having a hoarding disorder is usually female, living alone,  … and middle-aged or older.” While this is a consistent profile, he notes, “This is a mental disorder that includes the need to collect and control, and there is delusional thinking in many cases. The hoarder does not see the animals’ suffering, even their impending death.”



Tiscornia explains there are four key signs of hoarding that can help people recognize and report this behavior to SPCA humane officers. First, the offenders have more animals than normal. Second, the animals exhibit signs of poor care, including minimal nutrition, lack of veterinary attention and an absence of proper sanitation, as evidenced by piles of newspapers, trash and other clutter. Third the hoarder is in denial of the neglect and harm they cause. And fourth, no matter how many animals’ hoarders have, they persist in continuing to acquire more. They see themselves as a “Savior,” though their actions are actually driven by the need for acquisition and control.


To all animal lovers, if you know of such a case, please report this information to law enforcement officials or the SPCA in your area, so it can be investigated. You will make this a better world with your compassion and your awareness. This form of animal cruelty can be addressed and the rescued animals can have a chance at being healed and placed in caring homes. For more information about the SPCA for Monterey County, email