Pet Talk: Foreclosures also affecting our pets |

Pet Talk: Foreclosures also affecting our pets

Jennifer Waters
The Wall Street Journal
Vail, CO Colorado

In the 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 abandoned them in their foreclosed homes.

She also has 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 dogs’ family left them in the backyard when the bank took the house.

Shelters and animal-rescue organizations across the country are almost always overloaded with abandoned dogs, cats, birds and reptiles, but these days the problem has been aggravated by the rise in foreclosures, forcing families into situations that sometimes make animals the least of their concerns.

It is a sign of tough economic times that have prompted several organizations to form hot lines for pet foster homes and to implore pet owners to seek help for their animals before they move.

“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 purebred dogs in her neighborhood has jumped tenfold since Christmas. “It just boggles my mind,” she said. “It’s cutting across all income levels and age levels.”

There are no national statistics on pet abandonment or on the number of pets found in vacant properties. But Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Humane Society of the United States, said shelters are reporting full capacity and rescue organizations tell of sharp increases in the number 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 to rental apartments or homes that often don’t allow pets.

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.

“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.

The Humane Society, which cares for some eight million pets annually, is starting a fund that will provide grants to animal shelters and rescuers. “Their resources are getting tapped,” Shain said.

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