Last week, a man from Ohio moved out of his foreclosed home and left something behind. No, it wasn’t his television or his children’s toys; it was his 100 cats. These abandoned cats were found hiding in heating ducts, inside mattresses, behind dressers, and in cabinets. As more people are forced out of their homes due to foreclosures, family pets are being left to fend for themselves. While this example is an extreme case, the act of leaving pets behind is occurring frequently enough that the term “foreclosure pet phenomenon” has been coined by the animal welfare community.
Property inspectors and real estate brokers, typically the first ones to enter an abandoned house, are discovering dogs tied up in backyards, cats in garages, and smaller pets such as rabbits and lizards left in children’s bedrooms. While the Los Angeles Times recently stated that foreclosures were down in California during the second quarter of this year, experts remain cautious. Since abandonment of a pet is not only inhumane but also illegal in California, pet owners need to utilize other options.
If you are forced to move out of your home and you have pets, one of the first things you should do is find temporary housing for your pet. Start looking immediately once you find out your home is being foreclosed. Check with friends, family members, neighbors, and boarding facilities to see if your pet can be held temporarily until you find housing.
While your pet is in temporary housing, find a place to rent that accepts pets. Here are helpful websites in finding pet-friendly housing: peoplewithpets.com, petswelcome.com. I’ve found that if you call rental places that advertise “no pets” and speak directly to the landlord, they may make considerations for small dogs, cats, or smaller animals or if you show you are a responsible pet owner. It would be helpful to get letters from your veterinarian, former landlords, and neighbors documenting that you are a responsible pet owner.
If you are unable to find housing that allows pets, you can try to re-home your animal.
Contact friends and family members to see if they would like to adopt your pet. Petfinder now allows pet owners to post free classifieds on their website to find homes for their animals. To re-home your pet using petfinder, go to petfinder.com, and click on “classifieds,” then on “post free pet classifieds.”
You can also post a free ad on www.craigslist.com by choosing the option “post to classifieds,” then selecting “community” and then “pets.” You can also talk to your local veterinary clinics to see if they will allow you to post a flyer of the pet you are trying to re-home.
When talking to a potential adopter whom you’ve never met, remember to always check references and charge an adoption fee for your pet. It may sound counter-productive to charge an adoption fee, but studies have shown that even if you only charge $20, it serves as a reassurance that the person adopting has your pet’s best interest in mind. If your pet is not already spayed or neutered, it is crucial that you have this procedure done before re-homing him or her. Call your local humane society for discounts.
As a last resort, you may have to take your pet to your local animal shelter. Unfortunately, if your pet is deemed unadoptable, or if the shelter doesn’t have room, your pet may have to be euthanized. While this result is heartbreaking, it is still a much more humane option then leaving pets to fend for themselves in your abandoned home or on the streets.
If you know of someone who is being foreclosed, ask the occupants if they have made plans for their pets. If they haven’t yet, offer some of the suggestions listed above. When owners move out quickly from a foreclosed home, check to see if any pets were left behind or tied up in the back yard. Call animal control immediately if you find a pet left in the home. If you happen to find a dehydrated pet left outside, provide water, then call a veterinarian before administering food. The pet may require immediate veterinary care depending on how long the pet was left alone. Animal control should also be notified in this situation.
All across the nation, “moving” is one of the top reasons that animals are relinquished to shelters by their owners. It’s essential for soon-to-be pet owners to think about their long term life plans before adding a pet to their family. Most people will move at some point in the duration of a pet’s life. Make sure that when you adopt, you adopt for life; and this means when you move, your pet moves with you. Be certain that you are willing to take the extra time to always find pet-friendly housing when you move.
If you happen to be foreclosed, consider your options as soon as possible. Remember that regardless of the situation, there is never a good excuse for leaving your pet behind.