Dogs, cats latest victims of subprime-mortgage mess

    Dogs, cats latest victims of subprime-mortgage mess

    Animals lose families as owners lose homes

    By Mary Umberger
    January 22, 2008

    The tentacles of the foreclosure monster reach all the way into a Naperville animal shelter, where McKenzie and Rocket are its collateral damage.

    The doggie duo -- a black Labrador retriever and a shiba inu -- wound up there a few days ago, when their owners, facing the loss of their home, gave up the pets to the shelter.

    "We're seeing quite a few animals being surrendered due to economic reasons, including foreclosure," said Angie Wood, assistant executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, which, in addition to McKenzie and Rocket, is sheltering Bailey, a foreclosure cat.

    "We're seeing people in bad financial situations who are moving to places where they can't have pets," she said. "There definitely has been an increase in the past six months to a year."

    Though numerous shelters say they're not seeing a correlation between foreclosures and animal surrenders, others report a definite spike.

    "We're probably getting 25 [animals] a week coming to us for those reasons," said Terri Sparks, a spokesman for The Animal Welfare League in Chicago, which works with 53 municipalities on animal-control issues. "It's probably increased a lot in the past six to seven months."

    Linda Gelb, president of Community Animal Rescue Effort, which works through the Evanston Animal Shelter, said her group has taken in four dogs in the past three weeks because their owners were losing their homes.

    "We have listings of apartments that do take dogs or cats but, a lot of times, those are higher rent, they need to put a deposit down and they just don't have the money."

    And so, those pets are ending up in shelters -- or worse, left to starve when their owners walk away from foreclosed properties.

    Large-scale losses

    Authorities around the country in recent months have reported numerous findings of cats, dogs, birds, horses and other animals at foreclosed houses and farms. Among the more notorious cases, animals were found in large number -- three dogs and 20 birds in a house in Lorain, Ohio; 24 horses on a farm in Bixby, Okla.; and 63 cats in a house in Cincinnati. It was too late when authorities got to a foreclosed house in Bradford, Pa., to discover the bodies of 21 Great Danes. The owner on Thursday pleaded guilty to 21 counts of animal cruelty.

    In the third quarter of 2007, the number of homes in some stage of foreclosure in the U.S. more than doubled from year-earlier levels -- one for every 196 homes, according to RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif., company that tracks mortgage data.

    Illinois saw about 20,000 homes in foreclosure in the third quarter, up 80 percent from the year earlier, the company said.

    With these numbers in mind, the Humane Society of the United States issued a public statement this month that it's worried about the situation.

    "This isn't the first time we've seen people abandoning their pets; it's a problem throughout the year, when people move and can't take their pets," said Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Washington-based humane group. "But with this increase in foreclosures, we're going to see more of it."

    Shain said it's not necessarily intentional cruelty.

    "I'm sure their reasons are many: They presume that people are going to find the animals [left at the house] or they're too embarrassed" by the foreclosure to take them to a shelter, Shain said.

    "Far too often, those animals die in those homes, and it's a better scenario to get them to a shelter so that their last days are not spent alone, trying to eat wallboard or whatever they can find," she said.

    Foreclosure-related abandonment seems to vary in severity around the country, she said. Some Chicago-area animal-welfare groups say they haven't seen a particular surge, but they're noticing more apparent foreclosure casualties.

    It's not a number that shelters specifically track, said David Dinger, acting president of the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago. Jenny Schlueter, director of development for Tree House Animal Foundation in Chicago, a no-kill shelter for cats, said her volunteers are starting to hear about foreclosures.

    "We just helped a woman who had lost her home find a foster home for her cats for about a month," Schlueter said. "She told us she was losing her house and needed a month to get back on her feet."

    Schlueter said placing animals who have been raised as pets with foster caregivers is a preferred alternative to caging them in a shelter.

    Dinger said pets traditionally pay a price in tough economic times. And foreclosure is the latest to emerge on the animal-shelter radar, he said.

    Last week, the topic came up at a meeting of the Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance. The group of a dozen animal-welfare organizations discussed adding it to such concerns as domestic abuse, human medical emergencies, house fires and other situations in which people may need help providing for their animals, Dinger said.

    Happy ending

    Some foreclosure stories end relatively happily, with the animals being adopted or their owners retrieving them from foster care after putting their finances in order.

    Take the 63 cats -- many starved, sick and near death -- found in a Cincinnati house weeks after their abandonment in May. Their story sparked a local outpouring.

    Robin Moro, a Cincinnati artist, took in two of the cats and created a Web site,, to provide updates on the animals. She also contacted other artists around the country, who agreed to create portraits of each of the animals.

    The portraits, dubbed the Foreclosure Cats Project, are being sold through a silent auction and on eBay to raise funds to pay the animals' veterinary bills and other expenses, she said.

    A couple of the cats found in the urine-soaked house didn't make it, though most have new homes. Twenty remain for adoption, Moro said.

    Shain said many people in foreclosure may walk away from their animals because they presume their new landlords won't accept them. However, the rental-apartment industry, in general, is more accepting of pet-owning tenants, she said.

    "We're trying to reach out to people and say to them, 'If something like foreclosure is coming into your life soon, start planning,'" she said. "[Shelters] have resources that can help you."
  2. Ugh what a sad situation!!

    I **hate** how irresponsible people can be!!

    READ THE FINE PRINT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I volunteer at an animal shelter and this is definitely going on...poor dogs and cats :sad:
  3. I am SO EMBARRASSED for these people. Poor people with high aspirations buying large homes they can't afford? Hmm. And then leaving other people to clean up their mess? Abandoning their animals? SICK. I have no sympathy for these folks.
  4. how awful
  5. I heard on the local news that this is so bad in the SW part of Vegas, that they were telling people its against the law & they need to take these animals to a shelter. DUH where's their common decency.
    I think part of our problem with coyotes, mountain lions, & bobcats is they come down from the mountains & feast on pets. Now with abandoned pets running around freely, more wild animals will see it as an easy meal.
  6. ITA. It's shameful.
  7. I don't have any sympathy either. I wish I did, but seriously? I don't care if I got kicked out on my butt, I'd keep my cats. They are the only children I'll ever have. I've had to sneak them into an apartment before. It's not that hard, and cats are so clean anyway-- ridiculous.
  8. ^^^ITA
    These people knew they could not afford these homes, and now they want the government to bail them out. Whatever happen to taking responsibility for the choices you make?
  9. OK two points I'd like to make.

    1. A pet is not something you discard because you can't make your payments or you have to move. WTF? It's supposed to be a member of your family. Do you leave your kids behind when you move? Sorry, but I know that I have to move in 19 months and need to find a place that will take 1 dog & 3 cats. I know Ill have a tough time and pay through the nose in deposits.....but I don't care!

    Point #2....about the comments about people buying something you can't afford. I personally lived in California and bought a house when all this subprime stuff was going on. When my DH & I applied for a mortgage we knew we could "afford" a house for $200000. We were approved for $400000. Once realtors (not all realtors, but some slimy ones do this) realize this they can pressure you into buying something out of your original price range...they get a bigger commission after all. I think it was predatory practices that landed many people into this mortgage mess.
    So I think it is a little harsh to automatically come down on some of the people in this mess.

    BUT back to the original topic of the pets....I do NOT think it is right to abandon the animals no matter the situation. If I was homeless my animals would be with me. If it meant sleeping on the street and not eating so my dog could...that's what I would do. I like my dog more than about 99% of the people I know.
  10. There is no way in this world I will ever abandon my one and only furbaby yorkie:hysteric:!!! He is my life, apart from DH of course! We all have the responsibility to love and care for our pets the moment we get em, through thick or thin!!! It is unthinkable:crybaby:!
  11. I FEEL THE EXACT SAME WAY!!! :tup::yes:
  12. Awful.. man this just burns me up inside !! Stupid irresponsible people !
  13. The BIGGEST reason I stay at this apartment is because of my pets. (Two dogs and two cats.) I have an agreement with the landlord... it's kind of complicated, but it boils down to let me have my dogs and I won't report you to the health department. (grin) The place isn't hazardous NOW, but it was once.

    I also agree... I'd be homeless WITH my dogs before I sent them to the pound. They are 12 and 13 now, the cats are 17 (we think) and 4, but they are like our children. I've happily done without to take care of them. Their love is unconditional and I could never betray that love.

    Shame though... homelessness and lack of jobs is so bad now, the classes are becoming closer together. Life is really a game of chance.
  14. I feel so bad for these animals.

    Also, I know a couple of people who went through life changing events (death of a spouse, divorce, unemployment) that caused them their houses. So not all of these people who were foreclosed were due to buying houses they couldn't afford to begin with while married/had a job.
  15. I agree with what twiggers said about not all situations are the same when it comes to foreclosures and such.

    I actually pay more to live in a building that allows animals. I could probably save $1000/month if I didn't have any animals. It is well worth it for me though and I would go homeless with my animals before giving them up.