It's no secret that when people fall on hard times that their animals often fall on hard times as well. It has never been more obvious though than with the recent home foreclosure crisis. In cities where foreclosures are at record levels, shelters and rescues are struggling with the sudden influx of abandoned and relinquished animals.
States all over the country have been hard hit by the market. More than 13,600 Minnesotans lost their homes to foreclosure last year, double the number in 2006. In California the market has crashed hard and some towns have empty houses on every street. Unfortunately, those vacant houses may not be entirely empty. Home owners in a rush sometimes abandon their dogs and cats.
No one wants to believe that they are really going to lose their home, so many owners wait until the eleventh hour to get out. By the time they are about to be locked out from the now bank-owned property it's too late to make arrangements for animals. Frequently, people losing their homes are moving in with family members or into smaller homes and apartments. This generally means that animals are not allowed. On the eve of eviction, many pet owners are making bad decisions.
The Humane Society is urging home owners to think in advance and make arrangements for their animals. Dogs and cats are turning up dumped on farms and rural areas, perhaps their owners are hoping some kind soul will take care of them. Others are leaving them locked in the house or tied in the yard. Perhaps the evicted owners are hoping that the bank will do something to take care of them. Unfortunately, many of these animals are receiving no care at all. Taking pets to a shelter is a much better option, but in areas hard hit by the foreclosure mess, the shelters are at capacity.
Shelter workers argue that even a fifty-fifty chance of making it to find a new home is better than the alternative. Pets without homes may be euthanized, but at least for a while they are safe, warm and fed. At least they will be comfortable up until the end. Being on their own in the country or living off of whatever scraps are still inside the house is hardly humane. Photographs of emaciated animals found in homes are all over the internet. The situation is heartbreaking.
What We Can Do
When the economy takes a plunge, adoptions go down. Adoptions at shelters are at their highest when the sales of new homes are booming. People are financially secure, have a larger property and are ready to take on a new bundle of joy. However, right now even those who are buying new property aren't as likely to adopt. Money is tight for most everyone and a new pet is an added expense. This means there aren't a lot of animals in shelters finding new home.
If you have the room in your home and the means to care for one, now would be an excellent time to adopt a dog or cat. If you've always thought about being a foster home for a rescue group, now is the time to get serious about it. They have never needed you more than they do now. Even just giving a dog or cat a temporary home could really make a difference.
People do desperate things in desperate times, so if you hear of someone that is on the verge of eviction with nowhere to take their pets, don't judge. Instead find a way to help. You can't change that someone made a bad decision on a mortgage product, but you can help change the outcome for their pets. It's time for pet lovers everywhere to get out there and make a difference, even if it's just in one animal's life.