The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends

Animal Welfare Today: Why do some people hoard animals?

The Houston SPCA was recently called in to assist with the rescue of more than 70 animals from an apparent hoarding situation in an elderly couple’s South Houston home. When the pictures of animals in poor health flash across television screens and social media the natural human response is to ask why? One answer is “Hoarding Disorder.”


According to the Mayo Clinic, “hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items.” It is easy to look at the filthy conditions that these people find themselves in and accuse them of horrible things. But it is important to remember that hoarding is caused by a very real and very tragic mental illness and that those who suffer from it believe that what they are doing is right and good.

The Houston SPCA takes its job very seriously. Our mission is to promote commitment to and respect for all animals and free them from suffering, abuse and exploitation. But we would be remiss if we ignored the people who are suffering alongside the animals. Those with hoarding disorder need as much help as their pets. They are living in the same squalid conditions, usually suffering from severe physical ailments. That is why we frequently work closely with Adult Protective Services to ensure that when we remove animals, the owners of these pets receive the care that they so desperately need.

Most of these people never intend to hoard animals. They often start with just one or two that they’ve rescued or taken in. Sometimes neighbors and friends will find animals and bring them to the house. Sometimes they’ll open their home to strays. Due to the mental state of a person with hoarding disorder, they will rarely turn down or give up animals. They frequently go without food and medication for themselves in an attempt to care for their pets. But usually a lack of resources prevents them from providing proper veterinary care, including spaying and neutering. As numbers multiply they try their best to keep up, but a combination of being overwhelmed and physically unable to attend to all their animals leads to the miserable conditions we so often see.

One of the benefits of social media is that it spreads information quickly to a huge audience. But the audience can often react without fully understanding the situation, leading to quick and sometimes brutal judgment. When we share our stories of animal cruelty and neglect, it is not to invite public ridicule and scorn, but rather to educate and prevent it from happening again. We hope that by sharing pictures from  hoarding rescues, we can educate people to see the early signs of hoarding disorder and intervene on behalf of both humans and animals.

These people will rarely, if ever, ask for help because they are ashamed of what they’ve become and they’re afraid of what might happen to their pets if they stop caring for them. While they may not ask for help, you can. If you suspect a hoarding situation, report it. The Houston SPCA and its partners in law enforcement and social services stand ready to help.

Donate. Foster. Adopt. Report Abuse.


Further reading:

Mayo Clinic:

Tufts University:



Getting to Know Your Houston SPCA: Meet Tess, Houston SPCA Client Care Team Member!

Hello again my fellow animal-loving friends!

On today’s ‘Getting to Know Your Houston SPCA’ we are interviewing one of the friendliest people I know at the Houston SPCA who works incredibly hard to help out not only the animals who come in to the shelter but also the people who visit the Houston SPCA every day – Tess from our Client Care Team!


Humane Education Blog: Hello Tess and welcome to the Humane Education Blog!

Tess: Thanks, so happy to be here!

HEB: You are a member of our Client Care Team, what exactly does a Client Care Team Member do?

Tess: Being part of the Client Care Team means that I help people who come into the Houston SPCA who are either looking for a safe place for their animal that they are unable to take care of in our Admissions Center or looking to find a new animal to take home as part of their family through our Adoptions Center. We also have a very important role in our Call Center as we answer phone calls from the public who are calling to report cruelty cases or animals in need of rescue. We keep very very busy!

HEB: That is amazing! What is a typical day like for you?

Tess: Well, let’s say I am in the call center. I answer phone calls from the public and transfer them to the proper department. If there are general questions, I answer those to help out as best as I can.

If there is an animal in need of rescue, I get as much information from the person calling as possible. The best thing the person can do is tell me a detailed description of the animal, how it was injured, and the specific or closest address to the injured animal. I then dispatch that information to our 24-Hour Stray Injured Animal Rescue Team who will pick-up the animal as quickly as possible to take back to the Houston SPCA veterinarians for treatment.

If there is a report of animal cruelty, for example if an animal is outside with no shelter in freezing or too hot temperatures, I get as much information from the person calling as possible and send that information to our Cruelty Investigators. They will then investigate the situation to see what the best course of action is.


HEB: When do you get the most calls?

Tess: Usually when the weather isn’t so great outside. Bad weather always means there will be more calls. We really appreciate those people who take the time to call us, though!

Cat Rain Hooman

HEB: What is your favorite part of your job?

Tess: Hmmmm I probably have two things. When I see a really cute kitten or puppy come into our Admissions Center and I get to learn their personalities before they go up for adoption, that is so much fun!

Also, when an animal come in from rescue or cruelty that isn’t looking so great but after a few weeks of rehabilitation from our vets and animal care staff they look amazing and get adopted – that is what brings a smile to my face.


HEB: Did you always know you wanted to work for an animal shelter?

Tess: I have always loved animals and when I was a kid I would always try to rescue animals at home. When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I turned on the TV and saw ‘Animal Cops: Houston’ on Animal Planet. I knew from that moment on that I wanted to work for the Houston SPCA to help the animals who need it most.

HEB: That is so inspiring! Do you have any pets at home?

Tess Coco

Tess: My snowshoe cat, Coco. I love her to bits!

HEB: So let’s learn more about you – do you have any favorite sports teams?

Tess: Gotta love my Houston Rockets! I am definitely a basketball fan.


HEB: If you could get rid of one thing in the world, what would it be?

Tess: That’s easy – Hate. The world does not need it.

HEB: What is your favorite YouTube video to watch to make you laugh?

Tess: Oh! That Husky that says ‘No’!!

HEB: Thank you so much Tess for taking the time to hang out with us and tell us all about your work. We truly appreciate what you do!