Pet foreclosures


Jun 5, 2006
Right Coast{64F48A24-C312-46FE-B098-A7D2FC34D93C}:tdown:

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- In the swank Country Club area of Anthem, Ariz., Barbara Ward-Windgassen's rescue group has saved a bichon frise, Lhasa apso and shih tzu -- some with their leashes still on -- after their owners had abandoned them in their foreclosed high-priced homes.

She's also helped find new homes for a rottweiler and pit bull that were being cared for over the fence by neighbors for nearly two months after the family left them in the back yard when their house was taken back by the bank.

Call it reckless abandonment. Shelters and animal rescue organizations across the country are packed cage-to-cage with dogs and cats, even birds and reptiles, that have been ditched or dropped off as scores of foreclosed-upon homeowners relocate. It is a disturbing trend and a sign of the tough economic times that has prompted a number of organizations to form hotlines for pet foster homes and to implore pet owners -- or what the industry calls "pet parents" -- to seek help for their animals before they head off.
"There are a lot of people who are just walking away and leaving their pets behind, which breaks everyone's heart," said Windgassen, the president of Anthem Pets, a nonprofit animal welfare organization in her community.
The number of abandoned pure-bred dogs in her neighborhood alone has jumped 10-fold just since Christmas. "It just boggles my mind," she said. "It's cutting across all income levels and age levels."
Owners surrender their pets for a variety of reasons, ranging from allergies to plain disinterest. And there's no law that says people have to be honest about why they're giving up their pets (though there are laws in many states that prohibit pet abandonment).
There are no national statistics on pet abandonment or on the number of pets found in vacant properties. But Stephanie Shain, director or outreach for the Humane Society of the United States, said shelters are reporting full capacity and rescue organizations tell of sharper increases in the numbers of animals coming in.
"The economic times are making everyone pull their belts in a little tighter and people are having trouble taking care of their pets or keeping them if they've lost their home," she said. As consumers face foreclosures they often move first to rental apartments or homes that won't allow pets. They're also likely to give their pets up if they find themselves imposing on a family member for housing.
No pets allowed
Rick Johnson, the director at the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in California, has found a "marked increase" in the number of drop offs to his center in recent months that he's attributing to what have become called "foreclosure pets." Last December, Johnson said he had 176 pets on board compared with 78 the year before.
"We're up about 20% this year over the same period last year at this point and we have been identifying foreclosures" as a prime reason, he said. Of those who say they are moving -- and willing to talk about it -- one in four admit they are leaving their pet behind because they're losing their homes and relocating to a leased unit that won't allow animals.
"Most people are pretty embarrassed when they come or certainly distraught over having to give up that animal," Johnson said. Some dogs, for example, are 10 years old or older, and have been with the owners their entire lives. "The pain is real for those people."
Vivian Kiggins, executive director of the Liberty Humane Society in New Jersey, said her center has an extraordinarily large number of mature cats in need of adoption now. That's atypical of most early springs that are relatively quiet until the "kitten season" kicks in.
"We should be at a low point right now, but we're packed with adult cats," she said, noting that it could be a reflection of the economy.
"We've had people say they can't afford their pets and we do everything in our power to make sure that they can keep them with free-food programs and low-cost veterinarian appointment opportunities," she said.
In need of funding
Shelters and rescue centers often rely on donations for their programs and are stepping up efforts to increase giving. In Delaware, GOP Rep. Mike Castle has launched a three-week drive with the Food Bank of Delaware called "Donating Food to Fight Foreclosure." The campaign -- whose mascot is a 1-year-old homeless Chihuahua named Sasha -- seeks donations of all kinds of nonperishable foods and pet food.
The Humane Society, which cares for some 8 million pets annually, is starting a fund that will provide grants to animal shelters and rescuers to help them keep up with requests for help. "Their resources are getting tapped," Shain said.
It's also launching awareness programs to promote its food-assistance and foster programs as well as other plans to support animal-friendly help groups.
Meanwhile, the Web site is setting up an online database on which people can offer to provide foster care for animals whose owners may not be able to keep them for as long as a year.
"It can work if it's done properly and the people who are fostering the animals understand they are providing a temporary home," said David Meyer, president of the nonprofit adoption group. More than 5,000 animal shelters post pets for adoption on the Save-A-Pet site.
Compelling pictures
Meyer, who was among those involved in finding families for pets left homeless amid the destruction and flooding in New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, said this latest wave of needy pets is as great a concern but without the heart-wrenching pictures that motivate the greater public.
"The message hasn't gotten out," he said. "When Katrina happened people were seeing images in their homes of pets being rescued in boats in New Orleans. There was a dramatic message that got out. It was a clear and compelling issue and people understood that there was a need to provide for these pets."
"This is like a silent, creeping flood that has moved across the country but has not created the images that has spurred the public into action," he said. "But it's still an imminent crisis."


Sep 14, 2007
i <3 ny
ive heard of this. it actually makes me wonder if thats what happened to my 1 1/2 yo purebred pom. she was dropped off at a shelter in nyc
This absolutely breaks my heart!! I saw an article describing someone leaving their dog in the back yard and just walking away. I really want to step up my effort and help out somehow. The animals did nothing wrong to deserve it. I can't help but try to think about ways to ease this situation, since it is only going to get worse in the coming months.


1 <3 Lyndee!
Oct 19, 2007
This is so ridiculous!! Your pet is a member of your family!!

The people who just leave their animals in the backyard are especially heinous, IMHO.


In deo speramus
Oct 15, 2007
This is so very sad. I simply cannot imagine abandoning a pet, although I understand having to relocate somewhere that may not accept pets. Before we acquired ours, I spoke with friends about taking ours in should anything happen to us. They all have a place to go...not all together, unfortunately, although they would be loved, cared for, and treasured.