The foreclosure crisis in America has produced plenty of heartbreaking scenes. But now, many of these homeowners are losing more than their homes. Animal shelters have reported increases in the number of pets abandoned because of home foreclosure, adding yet more innocent victims to the sagging U.S. economy: foreclosure pets.

Animal shelters are reporting dramatic increases in the number of pets that have been abandoned as a result of home foreclosures. Without enough money to care for these creatures, homeowners are tearfully bidding farewell to their favorite companions. As the number of discarded Fidos and Fluffies has grown, animal activists are taking measures to help these four-legged souls find loving homes.

Numbers are up

As homeowners default on mortgages, and banks foreclose on their homes, they're forced to find new lodging. Many of them turn to rental residences, but finding a landlord who allows pets is not always an easy task. Their only alternative is to abandon their pets.

Animal shelters, like Kansas City's Wayside Waifs, have noticed a large influx of cats and dogs left by owners due to financial reasons. Unfortunately, shelter officials believe that their numbers may be a low estimate. Countless animals are simply abandoned on the street, and forced to fend for themselves. Tales of dogs being found in state parks, or cats left at doorsteps in cat carriers, aren't uncommon. What's out of the ordinary, however, is the big-hearted response of many animal lovers.

Protecting those paws

Many shelters are seeing an increase in donations and adoptions. Instead of opting for a vacation, animal lovers are choosing, instead, to take in a little friend.

Steps are also being taken to avoid the heartbreaking tales of animals being left on the street. An organization called No Paws Left Behind regularly attends loan foreclosure workshops. Their goal is to help people find safe homes for any animals who might become homeless. Using its website, www.nopawsleftbehind.org, the organization is helping homeowners find new lodging for their non-human friends. The key is to begin making arrangements before the foreclosure takes place.

Pet lovers want people with foreclosure pets to be aware of the types of shelters they're selecting. Many don't have a "No Kill" policy in place. According to the No Paws Left Behind website, animal shelters without a No Kill policy euthanize more than 12 million dogs and cats each year.

The dominoes continue to fall in the subprime mortgage debacle, and now, innocent creatures are beginning to pay the price. The $700 billion dollar bailout was probably not designed with foreclosure pets in mind, but the program may be the last hope for many of these beloved animals. Hopefully, it will help people in foreclosure fight their way out of trouble, and reduce the number of abandoned animals. Like their broke owners, these pets could use a break.

Published on November 23, 2009