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Foreclosure Blues for Four-Legged Foreclosure Casualties

Depending on the kindness of strangers is a gamble in this cruel world. Sometimes, the person is not kind. Sometimes the person cannot or will not offer up kindness. Sometimes, the person comes too late.

In the case reported by AP, the strangers came too late to save the most innocent of victims: the family dog. Evelyn Nieves wrote that before leaving their one-time home, the former owners had trashed their house — ripped up the floors, busted the walls and smashed the lights. When the clean-up crew came in, the pit bull had already starved to death — alive, but too far gone to save.

And even if the workers had wanted to save the animal, these people only have so much room and so much money. Animals are being dumped near farms and other places where their owners hope they will survive. They are being left at homes for clean-up crews, real estate brokers, and property inspectors to find — tied to trees in the backyard, confined in garages, and left in the children's room. These animals are left by their former owners to become someone else's problem.

Other owners face the facts and take them to animal shelters. According to the same article, the San Joaquin Animal Shelter in Stockton is receiving many desperate calls from owners who are being evicted. This is, of course, not only a California problem. It is a national problem.

The Chicago Tribune staff writer Mary Umberger reported how two dogs, a black Labrador retriever and a shiba inu, ended up at the Naperville Area Humane Society. These dogs are the lucky ones. Even if they aren't adopted, they will be well-fed and humanely euthanized.

The problem isn't new; it's just the incidents have increased in relation to the rate of foreclosure around the country. The Chicago-based Animal Welfare League spokeperson, Terri Sparks told the Tribune, "It's probably increased a lot in the past six to seven months."

A few pets trickling in is one thing, but what if the losses are more large-scale? Three dogs and 20 birds in Ohio, 24 horses in Oklahoma, 63 cats in Cincinnati or 21 dead Great Danes in Pennsylvannia?

The Los Angeles Times reporter Martin Zimmerman wrote how even responsible owners were desperate, caught between a new home or apartment where the landlord won't permit pets and the old home where the pets must remain until the final closing date, as an owner desperately looks for a new home for the pets.

You see these pet ads in Craiglist popping up. Foreclosures in California are at record levels so the problem is replayed more often. Rescue organizations are getting desperate calls. Brokers like Leo Nordine find abandoned dogs at least once a month. If the dogs are lucky, they'll still be alive. Maybe Nordine will get the neighbors to take the pets in or a public or private rescue group. One shelter manager reported a 16 percent increase in owner turn-ins.

According to Zimmerman's article, the owners are unlikely to be punished. With only a name and a disconnected phone number, no one has the time to track these people down.

All three writers indicate that finding rental housing that accepts pets isn't easy, particularly dogs. From my own personal experience, this isn't because of heartless landlords, but rather a result of negligent renters with pets making current landlords wary. Soiled and/or torn carpets and chewed-on wood cabinets or stairway rails, ruined gardens and angry neighbors and even abandoned pets make landlords hesitant to rent to pet owners.

With this current economic downturn and high rate of foreclosures, these stories of animal abandonment are likely to become more common. There is no kindness in allowing an animal to starve to death and ownership responsibility shouldn't be passed off to a stranger. Pets should not depend on the kindness of strangers; they depend upon the kindness of their friend, their owner, even if that kindness means sentencing the animal to death.

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  • James Cochrane

    I am always amazed at how people can simply disregard their pets in this fashion. It’s truly sad and irresponsible. Sure, when people go into foreclosure they are not in a great mindset. I get that. I can almost understand why they trash their homes (like I said, almost). But leaving a pet behind is cruel.

    I can remember back in college, the administration banned students from having pets because there were incidents of pets being left behind and starving to death.

    I have two cats and I couldn’t imagine ever leaving them behind. If you are going to be that cruel than at least have the decency of putting them to sleep. I think that is a more humane solution.

    Thanks for bringing this issue into the limelight. I hadn’t even considered that people would actually be doing this.