Foreclosures, deployments force families to leave pets behind

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Hot Foreclosures for Under $150,000

It's open house for great real estate steals. See how much home can you buy for the money, especially with these well-priced foreclosures in cities across the U.S.

Top Picks: Foreclosures for Under $150,000

Foreclosure Search: 7-Day Free Trial to Foreclosure Listings

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Freedom, a slender, black and tan German shepherd, sat up eagerly in his pen at the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society as several children darted by. Nose to the fence, his tail wagged and he gazed after them as they moved on.

Across the room lay Bones, a black border collie mix. The two dogs came to the shelter after their owners downsized into an apartment, where there was no room for them.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that the sagging economy and mounting home foreclosures have forced many pet owners to make tough decisions regarding their furry friends. Deployments of pet-owning soldiers also have stressed shelters, say local shelter directors.

Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for the Humane Society of the United States, said animal shelters and rescue groups across the country report increased numbers because of home foreclosures and financial difficulties.

"It's kind of hard to believe that some of it's not related to the economy," said Chris Womack, director of the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society shelter on Bragg Boulevard.

Womack said she has seen an increase in the number of people trying to place their animals in the shelter.

The shelter, which can hold about 70 dogs and 40 cats, stays at capacity, she said.

Along with the increase in incoming animals is an increase in the number of people asking shelters for assistance, Shain said. That includes turning to pet food banks.

Matt Smith, shelter manager of the Forsyth County Department of Animal Control in Winston-Salem, helped create AniMeals, a program that offers free pet food to about 50 elderly, disabled or low-income pet owners.

"The last thing we want is more animals coming in (to the shelter)," he said. "It's a way to keep people and their pets together."

If people believe they might find themselves in a financial crunch, Shain said, they should plan early to find a home for their pets.

But many no-kill facilities have long wait lists.

The Animal Protection Society shelter operates on a space-available basis and is booked for the next six weeks, Womack said. The wait normally is about two weeks.

Linden Spear, executive director of The Haven-Friends for Life in Raeford, said the shelter has not experienced an increase in the number of pets because it has limited space. But she said some of the most common reasons people give for surrendering their animals are that they are downsizing to an apartment or being deployed.

Dr. Timothy Jordan, a veterinarian at Cross Creek Animal Hospital on Skibo Road, said pet owners face the pressure of rising costs. Although he said he is as busy as he was this time last year, many people are putting off some procedures. Annual checkups and spaying or neutering might be put off until pet owners can afford them, he said.

Jordan recalled a slowdown in veterinarian business during the recession of the 1980s, and although business has not slowed, he worries that pet owners' lack of discretionary income might affect pet care.

"Some people can't afford to do what is considered appropriate treatment," he said. "Over time, as costs keep rising and wages don

Despite economic pressures, she said the adoption rate is steady, but the number of surrendered animals is higher than usual.

Larry Philpott, interim director of Cumberland County Animal Control, also reported an increased number of adoptions. The department in October moved into a new 23,000-square-foot facility, which can hold about 200 animals.

Mary Miller, an inspection assistant at Century 21 Weaver & Associates in Fayetteville, said many clients consider their pets to be part of their family and refuse to consider places that won't allow animals. But she recalled one woman living on a fixed income who was forced to part with her pet because she found limited housing options.

"She was really hurt to give up her pet that she said she'd had for many years," Miller said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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