Foreclosed: Owners Lose Homes, Abandon Pets

AP, January 29, 2008

STOCKTON, California (AP)—The house was ravaged—its floors ripped, walls broken and lights smashed by owners who trashed their home before a bank foreclosed on it. Hidden in the wreckage was an abandoned member of the family: a starving pit bull.

The dog found by workers was too far gone to save—another example of how pets are also victims of the nation’s mortgage crisis as homeowners leave animals behind when they can no longer afford their property.

Pets “are getting dumped all over,” said Traci Jennings, president of the Humane Society of Stanislaus County in northern California. “Farmers are finding dogs dumped on their grazing grounds, while house cats are showing up in wild cat colonies.”

In one such colony in Modesto, California, two obviously tame cats watched alone from a distance as a group of feral cats devoured a pile of dry food Jennings offered. VideoWatch some of the animals left behind »

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The abandoned pets are overwhelming animal shelters and drawing fury from bloggers, especially as photos of emaciated animals circulate on the Internet.

The first people to enter an abandoned house, such as property inspectors and real estate brokers, have discovered dogs tied to trees in backyards, cats in garages, and turtles, rabbits and lizards in children’s bedrooms.

No one keeps track of the numbers of abandoned pets, but anecdotal evidence suggests forsaken animals are becoming a problem wherever foreclosures are climbing. Stockton, California, and Modesto have some of the nation’s highest foreclosure rates.

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“They may be euthanized at a shelter,” said Stephanie Shain of the Humane Society of the United States. “But they’ll be fed and have water and have a humane euthanization, as opposed to spending the last days of their lives eating carpet or wallboard.”

Bloggers are furious with the “foreclosure pet” phenomenon, especially after seeing photos of emaciated animals on the Internet. Some critics say the pet owners have already proved they are irresponsible by buying houses they could not afford or mortgages they did not bother to understand.

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