Foreclosures lead to abandoned animals

Another sad aspect of the current real-estate crisis: abandoned pets. From AP:

Pets “are getting dumped all over,” said Traci Jennings, president of the Humane Society of Stanislaus County in northern California. “Farmers are finding dogs dumped on their grazing grounds, while house cats are showing up in wild cat colonies.”…In one such colony in Modesto, two obviously tame cats watched alone from a distance as a group of feral cats devoured a pile of dry food Jennings offered.

“These are obviously abandoned cats,” Jennings said. “They're not afraid of people, and they stay away from the feral cats because they're ostracized by them.”

Stanislaus County, which contains the town of Modesto, is in the Central Valley of California, a region hit hard by foreclosures.

Stanislaus County, which contains the town of Modesto, is in the Central Valley of California, a region hit hard by foreclosures.

I think about how much effort went into moving Luna to our new home, making sure that she was safe and cared for, and helping her adjust. To just leave a loved pet behind is unthinkable. While a lot of ire about the current real-estate problems is rightly aimed at speculators and financial institutions, the homeowners are responsible for abandoning their pets. And thus they are not getting a lot of sympathy in some corners:

Bloggers are furious with the “foreclosure pet” phenomenon, especially after seeing photos of emaciated animals on the Internet. Some critics say the pet owners have already proved they are irresponsible by buying houses they could not afford or mortgages they did not bother to understand.

“They see a pet as property, no different than a worn sofa tossed into the alley when the springs pop,” says a posting about foreclosure pets on About.com.

I also contrast these people abandoning their pets in foreclosures to those who lost their homes, and their pets, in hurricane Katrina. Many of them wanted to evacuate their pets but were prevented from doing so; some stayed behind to protect their animal companions. Those facing foreclosure have advanced notice, and no government force preventing them from seeing that their animals are cared for. And simply did nothing.

Their best shot is for the owners to plan ahead some,” Jennings said. “But they didn't plan when they bought their house. I don't see that happening anytime soon.”

We at CatSynth think pets are family, you don't just abandon them. We don't excuse violence or abuse because of financial hardship (even though some others out there do), so why should we see abandonment differently? Even in the situation where one cannot bring pets, such as when moving in with family or a strict rental, at least make an effort to find them new homes.

As a last resort, at least bring them to a shelter, where they may be adopted. Luna was adopted from the animal shelter in Santa Cruz, perhaps after her previous humans moved but couldn't bring her along. We hope that at least some of the animals caught in this crisis, there is a happy ending.

4 thoughts on “Foreclosures lead to abandoned animals

  1. this is a real problem, and i appreciate you identifying it. i love animals, cats are my favorite. to be honest, i like them much better than people.

    that being said, i think we should try to find a way to help poor people and people suffering hard economic times, rather than pile misery on them. i can't believe that most of these people, suffering one of the worst economic siutations a family can face, the loss of their home, are equally heartbroken about losing a pet. the lack of compassion for people in this situation is really appalling.

    this article sounds as if it was written by someone who has always never known economic hardship. no, i'm not saying poverty excuses animal abandonment, but i am saying it's outrageous to bash people who are already overwhelmed by economic circumstances.
    for many, it may be a choice between caring for a pet and having shelter for their children. often, in answer to this dilemma a knee-jerk response is "they shouldn't have gotten the animal in the first place." and certainly pet ownership is serious, and should be seen that way. but pet ownership can not be only for the financially well-off, poor people need pets, too. and sometimes, they will not be as able to care for those animals as well as those with means.

    you've identified a very important issue, one that will be with us for some time. now we need a better response than "punish the poor". can you please help us find a better response, a way to help these animals?

  2. dear amar,

    that was an awesome post. it will have us all thinking about this. i know i make negative judgments about people who abandon animals in a slow moving crisis, and being reminded that a shelter is the humane choice, not abandonement, is welcomed by me.

    another point to make might be to address the plain old ignorance people may have about these issues. i stopped a woman from leaving her cats in the woods [she was moving to another country]. she seemed sincere in her belief that her cats would be okay, that they could provide for themselves and be quite happy on their own.

    she sincerely believed the shelter would be putting them down, but when i explained the types of hardships cats face in the wild, and that our local shelter was a no-kill, she was happy to change her mind.

    i wonder if dog owners think the same way — that because their pet is an animal, it naturally can fend for itself.

    but i do get angry when i run across such situations, but it sounds like charles is asking that i think about this a little more. okay!

    so, where is the divine luna, and does she have a proper perch from which she can survey her new neighborhood? it's weekend cat blogging after all, and WE WANT LUNA!

    hope you're happily settled. and did i mention?

    WE WANT LUNA!;-)

    d

  3. To me, abandonning pets is as bad as abandonning children. There is a 8 month old baby that was abandonned in a stairwell of a mall in Toronto. The temperature that day was below -10C. The baby had scrapes, bruises, and blood on her face. So far, no one has 'claim' they know who the baby is. Nobody. Poor thing.

    Like Amar said, there are shelters and places to go to, and to not even attempt to do that is one of the lowest of the low – in my book.

    Makes me very angry to see helpless kids and pets being treated like that. Very angry!

  4. Thanks for the comments and opinions.

    We had quite a lively discussion on [url=http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/2/1/155644/0888/667/447840]DailyKos[/url] where I also posted this article.

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