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Vermont Legislators Mull Animal Hoarding Bill

A bill introduced in the Vermont State Legislature defines animal hoarding and imposes criminal penalties on anyone found to be an animal hoarder.

By The SmallAnimalChannel News Division
Posted: March 11, 2011, 7:15 p.m. EST

© Gina Cioli/BowTie Studio
If the proposed bill regarding animal hoarding becomes law in Vermont, it defines animals as all living, sentient creatures that are not human beings, so it covers pets like hamsters, dogs, cats and more.

A bill has been introduced in Vermont that seeks to impose criminal penalties for animal hoarding.

As written, House Bill 371 defines an “animal hoarder” as any person who:
• Possesses five or more animals;
• Fails to provide adequate food, water, shelter, rest, sanitation or necessary medical attention or transports an animal in overcrowded vehicles;
• Keeps the animals in a severely overcrowded environment; and
• Displays an inability to recognize or understand the nature of or has a reckless disregard for the conditions under which the animals are living and the deleterious impact they have on the animals’ health and well-being.

The state’s animal cruelty laws define animals as “all living sentient creatures, not human beings.” This could mean a wide array of animals, including cats, dogs, small animalsbirds and reptiles.

Violators would be guilty of animal cruelty and could face up to one year’s jail time, a fine of up to $2,000 or both. Second and subsequent violators could face up to two years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

Under state law, a humane officer may seize an animal without a search warrant if he or she witnesses a situation in which the animal’s life is in jeopardy and immediate action is required to protect its health or safety. A humane officer includes law enforcement officers, auxiliary state police officers, deputy game wardens, humane society officers, employees or agents; animal control officers; or any officer authorized to serve criminal process.

In an industry alert released on March 10, 2011, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) cautioned against warrantless searches, claiming such searches invite potential for harassment and abuse of police power.

H 371 has been assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture where it awaits action.
To view H 371 in its entirety, visit the Vermont State Legislature’s website.

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Vermont Legislators Mull Animal Hoarding Bill

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Reader Comments
That's Great! Animal hoarding is a terrible thing. I just have one question, what if you have 5 animals but are taking very good care of them. Would that still be considered hoarding? If you could answer my question go to Sparky's or Angel Cally's profile to answer.
I'm so glad that hoarders are finally being stopped. I just bought a shirt from the HSUS that says 'STOP PUPPY MILLS' and now hoarders are being stopped, finally animals are being helped! Thank god.
Aiyanna, Eugene, OR
Posted: 3/20/2011 1:50:39 PM
But what about farmers & ranchers? Hobby farmers? Rescues?

I know of quite a few families with 3 dogs & 3 cats (or vice versa) plus maybe a bird/hampster/etc. I don't think it's the number that's important. It's their ability to provide care, nourisment, & enrichment. The law should keep that in mind
Kat, Westminster, MD
Posted: 3/15/2011 9:20:19 AM
Thank you so much for bring this issue to our attention.

I'm a researcher for the series Confessions: Animal Hoarding, currently airing on Animal Planet that tells the stories of people overwhelmed by the number of pets they own. The problem is on the rise and affect communities across America.

If you are concerned about the health of animals in someone's care and suspect they may be hoarding them, we might be able to help.

Most animal hoarders don’t see themselves as hoarders, and sometimes don’t intentionally collect animals. Their relationship with their animals has threatened their relationships with friends and family.

Most of these situations aren’t dealt with until they become criminal. This results in animals being euthanized by over-stressed shelters, and doesn’t address the underlying psychological issues - meaning nearly 100% of people end up in the same situation again.

We are dedicated to finding comprehensive long-term solutions and believe therapy to be key to this. We can bring in experts to help people and their pets.

If you or someone you know needs help because animals have overrun their life, visit to learn more and submit their story. Alternatively, contact me directly at or toll-free at
1 -877-698-7387.

We will treat all submissions with confidentiality and respect.
Sara, LA, CA
Posted: 3/14/2011 12:48:25 PM
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