Saturday, April 19, 2008

Left behind - Pets and Foreclosure

April 16, 2008 : 6:04 PM ET

No one will forget the lost looks on the faces of pets abandoned after Hurricane Katrina. Best Friends Animal Society came to the rescue of thousands of them. Today, Best Friends is helping victims of another disaster – an economic disaster. For many people and their pets, the current mortgage crisis is every bit as devastating as a natural disaster.

Across the country, animals are being found abandoned in foreclosed homes. Other pet owners who’ve fallen victim to the subprime mortgage mess, finding themselves just days or even hours from being homeless, are desperately trying to find someone to take in the furry and feathered members of their families.

Some have tearfully left their pets at shelters, not knowing what would become of them, but believing they could at least give them some chance of being adopted.

“We’re seeing more and more cases of people leaving their homes and dropping the dog off at the shelter and the cat in the local park,” says Michael Mountain, president of Best Friends Animal Society. “Sometimes they even just tie the dog up outside and drive off.”

It is never OK to leave the family pet to fend for himself. Many people have been calling Best Friends’ Animal Help department for advice on how to keep their pets as they weather the economic storm. Department manager Liz Finch says she’s seeing an increase in calls and e-mails from people facing foreclosure.

“If there is a short time-frame, we coach them on ways to find temporary care for their animals through kenneling, boarding at a vet's office, fostering with a friend – anything to give them more time to look for the right home for their pet,” Liz says. “They may have the ability to keep their animal if they can find this temporary care, to tide them over until they find a pet-friendly home for themselves.”

Best Friends Animal Help specialists also provide resources to help people re-home their pets, giving them valuable information on how to network in their communities and how to contact rescue organizations.

“If the animal has special needs, we give them more specialized advice and resources,” Liz says. “We want to offer them as many options as possible. The more people who are aware of an animal in need of a home, the more likely you'll be able to find that home.”

A crisis has a way of bringing out the best in human beings, and Best Friends has also been receiving calls from people wanting to help. Mindy Mason, a real estate agent with Prudential Utah in Salt Lake City and a member of that city’s Board of Realtors, wanted to take action after hearing her colleagues talk about animals they’d found abandoned in foreclosed homes. She’s looking into how she and her fellow real-estate agents can donate proceeds from an annual fundraiser to Best Friends. “I just love what Best Friends does,” she says.

Mindy has some advice for people facing foreclosure – they should get in touch with their lenders. She says many lenders are willing to lower interest rates to help people stay in their homes.

“Lenders are being flexible,” Mindy says. “They will definitely work with you.” She says real-estate agents can help if people don’t know how to contact their lenders.

Meanwhile, Best Friends’ Animal Help specialists will continue to help however they can. The ultimate goal is to find some way to help people keep their pets. The next best thing is to help people place their pets in new forever homes.

“It's a very sad reality that people are being put in this position, where they essentially have to give up a member of their family,” Liz says. “We do whatever we can to give them hope for their animals’ future.” ~Written by Sandy Miller

Note from editor: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is one of the most worthwhile animal charities in existance today. I encourage you to visit their website, volunteer at the sancutary, and donate to the cause. Many who have gone to the compound and spent a week with the animals have come home with wonderful memories, and continue to spend their vacations there helping out. This is a wonderful organization.

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