April 27, 2008
A real estate agent, checking on a
"Our owners lost their home and had to move. They could not take us with them."
That's the sign hanging on Sami and Danni's kennel at the Tri-County Humane Society in
Pets are emerging as the hidden victims of the housing crisis in
"When times are hard for people, they frequently are hard for pets as well," said Nancy Peterson, issues specialist with the Humane Society of the
The Tri-County shelter is at capacity, with 350 animals. But five or six calls a day continue to come from people who are moving but can't take their dogs, and 40 more from pet owners wanting to surrender their cats.
The Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in
Last month, four pet owners said Foreclosure was the reason they were giving up their animals; another 56 cited "moving" and 11 more said they were "unable to find housing" that allows pets.
"Some people treat their animals like they are an old TV set or a couch. They're moving on and they can't wait to get rid of them," said Executive Director Joan Carlson Radabaugh.
But for others, "it is really heartbreaking," Radabaugh added. "They have lived with their animals for years and they love them."
In some cases, homeowners facing Foreclosure panic when they can't find a rental property that allows pets. Others must move in with family members who don't have room for Fido or Fluffy.
Instead of leaving their pets, animal welfare advocates and veterinarians urge owners to try to find temporary homes for them with family or friends. If all else fails, surrendering them to a rescue group or county shelter gives the animals a chance of finding a new home. The worst option: abandonment.
But Broward County Animal Care and Regulation, like the league, is adding "Foreclosures" to its surrender database to help them determine the scope of the issue.
The number of animal abandonment calls to the county related to evictions rose last year to 267 calls, compared with 198 in 2006. The shelter also gets stray animals that may be Foreclosure victims, said Acting Director Beth Chavez.
Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control also saw an increase in the number of surrenders toward the end of last year, as the housing market worsened. There were 1,599 dogs and cats brought to the shelter by their owners from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2007, compared with 1,406 animals during the same period the year before. But officials said they did not know how many animals were brought in because of Foreclosure.
The first reports of a Foreclosure pet crisis to reach the Humane Society of the
The American Veterinary Medical Association became alarmed at reports of animals being found in vacant houses, near starvation or dead. In some cases, Foreclosure proceedings were delayed and the pets had been locked inside for days. The association, the nation's leading authority on companion animal health, issued a statement this month, asking homeowners not to leave their pets or drop them on their veterinarians' doorsteps.
"It really disturbed us that people are doing this. These people are abandoning their animals under extraordinary circumstances," said Dr. Kimberly May, the association's assistant director of professional and public affairs.
The Humane Society of the
"Moving always has been a major reason why people surrender their pets," Peterson said.