Effects of animal hoarding on dogs research

Early in life, Rumba the dog wasn't dealt the best hand. In fact, the cards this Chow Chow and shepherd mix got were downright crummy. She lived with an animal hoarder in Los Angeles before being dumped with a group of dogs on a struggling sanctuary in the Mojave Desert, where there were too few resources for too many dogs.

Helping a dog from a hoarding situation

Thankfully, several rescue groups stepped up to help these canines in dire need. Some of the dogs, including Rumba, came to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Rumba was shy and nervous, as are many dogs who are saved from hoarding situations. "Her instinct was to escape," explains Best Friends dog caregiver Carissa Hendricks. Rumba would even try to chew through leashes to get away.

Study of hoarded dogs

Best Friends and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine are currently conducting a large-scale study of hoarded dogs. The research will assess the effects of living in a hoarding situation on their mental state and behavior.

Dogs Rumba and Slinky, who came from a hoarding situation, at the dog parkDr. Frank McMillan, director of well-being studies at Best Friends, is overseeing the study. He succinctly describes the objective of his work at Best Friends: "The focus of my studies is the mental health and emotional well-being of animals who earlier in their lives have endured hardship, adversity and psychological trauma. The goal of the studies is to better understand the effects of trauma and to develop new therapies to restore to these animals a life of enjoyment rather than one filled with fear and emotional distress."

Dr. Frank encourages people who have adopted or are fostering a rescued hoarded dog to participate in the study by filling out a brief online questionnaire (see below). The survey should take about 15 minutes to complete, and confidentiality is guaranteed.

"The study aims to understand the psychological and behavioral characteristics of dogs who have lived through the hoarding experience," Dr. Frank says. "This information will allow us to develop more specific and effective therapies to help them overcome their emotional challenges. The ultimate goal is to help these dogs be adopted and to succeed and thrive in their adoptive households."

A brighter future for shy, nervous dog

The cards Rumba was dealt in life may not have been all that lucky, but she was able to discard the bad ones along the way. She is now looking forward to a life in a forever home, where she will be cared for and provided with all the TLC any dog could ever want.

Rumba's luck has indeed finally changed for the better.

Participate in the Best Friends Canine Hoarding Study. The PIN for the study is 9093. 

Photos by Best Friends staff