Foreclosure has a tremendous human cost. Families get kicked out of their homes, have their credit wrecked, and must find a new place to live. It's very difficult for the people who go through it, but there's also a nonhuman cost. Cue the Sarah McLachlin music, get your tissues ready. One of the most heartbreaking results of the foreclosure crisis is the effect it has on pets of some foreclosed homeowners.
When many homeowners lose their homes to foreclosure they rent an apartment that doesn't allow pets, so they have to take them to a shelter where as many as half of the animals must be euthanized because of overpopulation. Still, shelters are staffed by workers and volunteers who love animals and try to find find them permanent homes. Giving your animal to a shelter is the responsible thing to do if you can no longer care for it and can't find them a new home on your own.
Unfortunately, not everyone is responsible. Some foreclosed homeowners simply abandon their pets and leave them to fend for themselves on the street, in wilderness areas, or even trapped in the foreclosed house or yard. Come on, even the sadistic villain in the Saw movies gave his victims a chance to escape if they could solve a puzzle. A confined, abandoned animal doesn't even have that chance. How could this happen?
Ignorance. Let's take it for granted that the majority of people who don't properly care for their pet after foreclosure are not acting maliciously. They cared for the animal at one point so it's probably likely that they act out of ignorance. They may be expecting someone from the bank to come to the house and take it to a shelter. That could happen, but if there's a change of plans or misunderstanding the animal could be stuck with no one to care for it. By the time someone gets into the house the animal may be emaciated or dead from dehydration and starvation.
Revenge. In this case the former homeowner is acting out of anger toward the bank and uses animals as a tool to get revenge. They think that leaving an animal in their home will damage it and inconvenience the bank. One homeowner sought to destroy his repossessed home by locking three large pigs inside before leaving. The pigs did destroy the home, but were without food or water for a week when they were saved. It's not ethical to use animals as a tool for revenge.
Money. This is obviously an issue for someone dealing with foreclosure. Many shelters require you to pay a fee to drop off your pet. And some pet owners who don't have the money just abandon their pet wherever it's convenient.
Depression. Dealing with the possibility of losing one's home can drive a person to feel hopeless and helpless. It is documented that foreclosure increases a person's risk of health problems and suicide. Severe depression could make a once-loving pet owner feel indifferent to themselves and their pet and make bad decisions for both.
If you are facing foreclosure, you should speak with an experienced professional to determine your options. If you do that but can't keep your home, and the place you're moving to doesn't allow pets, do the responsible thing and find somewhere for your pet to go. Call your local shelter or humane society. Even if you can't pay the standard fee to drop off an animal they may know of alternatives. There's no circumstance in which it's acceptable to abandon an animal anywhere.
There are things you can do to help:
- Call the police. Let the proper authorities know if you see anything that leads you to believe a pet has been abandoned or mistreated. It's better to be safe than sorry.
- Rescue an animal. If you want to adopt a pet, check out the animals on death row at your local shelter before you go to a breeder. You may be able to find a great pet and save a life at the same time. It doesn't get much better than that.
- Donate to a good cause. Give money or time to an animal shelter if you are able and have the inclination.
- Get your pets spayed or neutered. There's no excuse not to.
Unfortunately, the foreclosure crisis is not over. There are still hundreds of thousands of homes in some stage of foreclosure across the country. So we are likely to continue to hear stories about abandoned pets and distressed families for years to come. If it happens to you, make informed and compassionate decisions for yourself, your family, and your furry friends.
Images courtesy of SOMMAI and Tina Phillips at FreeDigitalPhotos.net