About Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium

Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium (HARC)

Who is HARC?

HARC was founded in 1997 as an informal group of individuals concerned about human and animal welfare, and interested in exploring the problem of animal hoarding to find more effective and humane solutions for this very problematic and poorly understood behavior. The group collaborated over a ten-year period, until 2006, when we published our community intervention manual. Each of us came from different institutions and brought different professional perspectives – animal welfare and humane law enforcement (Luke, Patronek), Sociology (Arluke), forensic psychiatry (Messner), social work and rehabilitation services (Papazian, Nathanson), veterinary medicine (Patronek), and hoarding psychology and intervention (Frost and Steketee). Dr. Messner is now deceased, and Mr. Luke is now President of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Drs. Frost and Steketee continue as leading researchers in the area of object hoarding at their respective institutions; Dr. Arluke co-authored a book in 2009 examining one very noteworthy case; Ms. Nathanson continues to provide counseling and court-ordered assessments for animal hoarders and their families. She and Dr. Patronek continue to collaborate, with a book chapter in press in the volume “Pathological Altruism”, edited by Barbara Oakley.

HARC does not maintain an office or staff. This website is our primary vehicle for communication. Although various members do become involved in interventions within Massachusetts, our location does not permit us to work around the United Sates, to testify in court cases, or to provide extensive long-distance counseling or advice. We can at times provide referrals to mental health or animal protection groups in other parts of the country who may be in a better postion to become involved in individual cases. Jane Nathanson does provide both long distance counseling and court-ordered assessments through her private counseling practice.


  • Arnold Arluke, Ph.D. – Professor of Sociology, Northeastern University, Boston, Mass.
  • Randy Frost, Ph.D. – Professor of Psychology, Smith College, Northampton, Mass.
  • Carter Luke –¬†President/CEO, Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Boston, Mass.
  • Jane Nathanson, LCSW, LRC, CRC – Social Work, Rehabilitation Counseling and Consulting, Boston, Mass.
  • Edward Messner, M.D. – Forensic Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. [DECEASED 2006]
  • Michelle Papazian, MSW, LICSW – Social Worker, Boston, Mass.
  • Gary Patronek, VMD, Ph.D. – Vice President for Animal Welfare, Animal Rescue League of Boston; Clinical Assistant Professor, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, North Grafton, Mass.
  • Gail Steketee, Ph.D. – Dean and Professor, Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, Mass.

Animal Hoarding previously known as “collecting”, is a poorly understood phenomenon which trancends simply owning or caring for more than the typical number of pets, and affects every community in the US. It has serious consequences for people, animals, and communities. New cases are reported in the media each day, with dozens of others unreported, and still more undetected.

Animal hoarding is not about animal sheltering, rescue, or sanctuary, and should not be confused with these legitimate efforts to help animals. It IS about satisfying a human need to accumulate animals and control them, and this need supercedes the needs of the animals involved.

Animal hoarding is a community problem. It is cruel to animals, can devastate families, be associated with elder abuse, child abuse, and self-neglect, and be costly for municipalities to resolve. Without appropriate post-intervention treatment, recidivism approaches 100%. Increased awareness, leading to more comprehensive long-term interventions, is needed.

Hoarding Cases

Details for over 1700 hoarding cases are archived on the website Pet-Abuse.com. This site provides a searchable national database for all types of animal abuse.