Warren County, North Carolina, Animal Control Director Elma Rae Greene recently took custody of a herd of allegedly maltreated horses found on the same property as carcasses of several other animals. While the case against the animals' owner remains pending, Greene said owners' ability to care for animals for any reason is always at the heart of her animal cruelty investigations. Frequently, those cases involve owners who have more horses than they the resources to care for them. As a result, Greene said that it might be time to redefine what it means to be a horse hoarder.

Clara Ann Mason, DVM, a veterinarian in Winfield, West Virginia, and a frequent lecturer on equine welfare issues, agrees. She would like to see law enforcement jurisdictions nationwide accept an absolute definition of animal hoarding.

“We think of the old lady with 100 cats, but someone could have four horses and still be a hoarder,” Mason said.

Mason said the incidence of animal hoarding increases during tough economic times, and is likely to involve objectifying animals to serve their owners' delusions.

She also said hoarders tend to be narcissistic and seek to be seen as more affluent than they really are: “People say, 'Look at me, I have all these horses,' ” Mason said.

Finally, Mason said that, in general hoarders, don't believe that their animals are under fed, or that they breed their animals indiscriminately

“They're delusional," she said. “Hoarding is just one element in a bigger puzzle about abuse.”

Morgan Silver, executive director of the Horse Protection Association