As the nation's housing market continues to slump, amid record high foreclosures, plummeting prices and a credit crunch, more and more beloved family pets are starting to slip through the cracks in the American Dream. Now, with analysts murmuring about the possibility of the big R (Recession) settling in for real, the situation seems even more serious.
"We're seeing quite a few animals being surrendered due to economic reasons, including foreclosure," Angie Wood, assistant executive director of the Naperville Area [Illinois] Humane Society, told the Chicago Tribune. Wood's shelter is currently caring for a small number of animals that were turned over when their owners lost their homes, including a cat, a black Labrador retriever and a shiba inu.
Wood says she has clearly seen an increase in the number of abandoned animals as a result of the housing crunch. It seems people are giving up their pets after they are forced to move to a place where animals are forbidden, or when they end up crowding in with family or friends who are not amendable to furry friends. It's also possible some folks just can't afford Fido or Fluffy's chow or vet bills anymore.
In the third quarter of 2007, the number of homes in some stage of foreclosure in the U.S. more than doubled from year-earlier levels -- one for every 196 homes, according to tracking company RealtyTrac. In response, the Humane Society of the United States has issued a statement this month saying it is worried about what will happen to many of the country's millions of pets.
The Tribune points out a few of the more notorious cases: three dogs and 20 birds left in a house in Lorain, Ohio; 24 horses on a farm in Bixby, Okla.; and the bodies of 21 Great Danes in a foreclosed house in Pennsylvania.
After 63 cats were discovered weeks after abandonment in a Cincinnati house in May, a local artist sprung into action. The felines were near starved and soaked in urine, but Robin Moro adopted two, and created a website, ForeclosureCats.org, to help the others. Artists around the country created portraits of the rescues, called the Foreclosure Cats Project, and an eBay auction of the resulting work was set up to raise funds for their care.
Animal welfare experts are quick to point out that should someone lose the ability to care for their pets, the best course of action is to seek out a reputable shelter or adoption group, rather than releasing the animals to fend for themselves, or simply leaving them to fate in abandoned dwellings (which can also result in fines and jail time for negligent owners). In some cases, people have already been able to readopt their animals after getting their physical, and financial, houses in order.
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