Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email

I'm hoarding animals

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 26 June 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I am having some problems with my neighbours lately. The cause is the number of dogs and cats that I now have in my home.

It started with me taking on a friend's animals when she was the victim of domestic abuse and could no longer look after them, but soon after that, I heard of some newly born kittens which the owner was going to drown, as they were an unwanted litter, so I said I would take them on. Then an elderly neighbour died and I couldn't allow his children to have his little Yorkshire Terrier put down, so I volunteered to have her. And it has continued so that at the moment I have 23 cats and 8 dogs in my 2 bedroomed house.

Unfortunately the cats go into the neighbouring gardens and mess, which I cannot really do anything about, and the dogs do not all get on with each other, so there can be quite a lot of barking at times. However I could not possibly give any of them up as they have already all had traumatic lives. What can I do? I am worried that the RSPCA will be called and will take them away from me.

Patricia Marie says...

Animal hoarding is a very serious issue and needs to be addressed. It is clear you only ever wanted to love and care for these animals, yet somehow you have lost your way and things have escalated out of control. You have too many animals for one small house, particularly as you are not able to provide adequate space for them to run and exercise, or train and clean up after them all.

I believe the sad stories behind each pet you have accepted has influenced you in making the wrong decisions. You say you don't wish them any further trauma, yet you need to see that actually the animals are clearly stressed as demonstrated by the constant barking. It seems inevitable that you will receive a visit from the authorities and could risk losing all your pets. To avoid the distress this will cause, I urge you to act now and contact either the dog warden for your area, through your local council, or the RSPCA, as both will be able to offer immediate help and advice. Their main priority will be to ensure the needs of the animals are being met, which in your case are not, and will more than likely suggest the majority need to be re-homed. To make this less painful, perhaps you could work together to find suitable new homes for them. I'm sure you can see that this would be beneficial for the animals. For further reassurance you could even ask their new owners to send you regular updates.

You do need to look after yourself too. I believe you are suffering from seriously low self -esteem. It seems you have been struggling, unable to say 'no' and feel a strong sense of responsibility for others. Attempting to say 'yes' to everyone can often result in bad decisions being made, hence the appalling situation you now find yourself in. I would recommend a visit to your GP who could refer you for some counselling to address your emotional state of mind, and thereby assist you in making better decisions in the future.

I'm sure when things become more settled, you will look back on this situation, and be proud of yourself for doing the right thing.

RSPCA, 0300 123 4999
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