Homeless Pets: Foreclosure's Forgotten Victims

Facing foreclosure and the uncertainty it brings is hard enough for people to handle. But what about their pets?

It's natural to focus all the attention on people who are displaced, but pets often are uprooted by foreclosures, too. According to Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal's Adoption Center says, "This is a tough subject matter for us because we already have an epidemic homeless-pet problem in this country without the foreclosure problem."

According to the ASPCA, 63 percent of households in the United States have at least one pet and, even still, the number of displaced pets is staggering: 5 million prior to the foreclosure crisis and, since then, at least an additional 550,000 to 1 million. So for pet owners who are facing the possibility of foreclosure, Buchwald says, "I urge people to act quickly and as soon as they foresee a problem."

Buchwald offers some advice and tips on how to best handle the situation and find the most positive solution for the animal:

Among her "do's":

  • Be realistic about the situation and act as quickly as possible.
  • Put out feelers through social network contacts, including friends, families and neighbors, who might provide a temporary home for the pet. It helps to have a relationship with the new caregiver.
  • Be as informative and forthright as possible about the pet, including the pet's medical history, dietary and grooming needs. This will lead to the best chance of successful placement.
  • Include a photo in anything posted about the pet, whether it's on a website or in a flyer.
  • Be realistic about the duration of homelessness when placing the pet with their new family.
  • Realize that the best option might be placing the pet with a group or in a shelter where they most likely will be adopted.

The "don'ts" include:
  • Don't wait until the last minute, this could put the pet at risk, especially when entrusting it to someone who is not prepared to provide proper care
  • If possible, avoid boarding facilities or boarding the animal in a pet clinic. These are not ideal in long-term situations, should that be the case.
  • Don't hide information about the pet when trying to place it. If the adoptive family is not aware of certain issues, the pet could end up homeless.

Websites providing additional information include the ASPCA's Find a Shelter section, Petfinder.com and Foresclosurepets.org.

Buchwald also recommends that if pet owners need to relocate to another state following a foreclosure, "They probably should look for shelter in their new home state rather than where they were living."
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