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Foreclosure's filthy aftermath-Pets left for dead

July 11th, 2007, 02:42 PM
Pets left for dead

Many animals are not so lucky. Pets are often silent sufferers during the foreclosure process. Homeowners in financial straits may make them a low priority to begin with, and when foreclosure leads to eviction, they are sometimes abandoned without food or water and left to breed uncontrollably.

In May alone, authorities found 23 abandoned animals in a house in Lake Carmel, N.Y.; 20 birds in a Lorain, Ohio, house; 24 horses on a Bixby, Okla., property; and more than 60 cats in a home in Cincinnati. All of these properties were in foreclosure, and most of the animals were injured, infected, dehydrated and starved nearly to death.

"There are a lot of hoarders and neglected animals and people who just don't realize how fast things can spin out of control," says animal rescue worker Gail Silver, who discovered the cat-filled home in Cincinnati.

On May 1, Silver was on her usual bike ride when she decided, suddenly, to turn down a road she hadn't been down in two years.

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"Something said I should go down this street," she recalls. On the street was a house with a bunch of cats sitting on the porch. "They did not look good."

Neighbors told Silver that the owner had been evicted two weeks earlier and that representatives from the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) were scheduled to come the next day to take away the cats and euthanize them. Silver decided to look inside the home.

"When I saw what was in that house, I was sick to my stomach," she says. "They were everywhere . . . tiny little babies that weren't even weaned yet, with bulging eyes. The house was filthy; you could smell the disease. I had to wear a mask in there -- it was so toxic."

A bigger burden

Local rescue agencies got involved, bargaining with the SPCA and the bank for more time to round up the cats and kittens. The house was scheduled to be cleared out completely a week later, on May 8. But Fannie Mae, the government-backed home-mortgage giant, intervened and extended the date to May 25.

A national organization, United Animal Nations, provided a grant to assist with emergency medical expenses for the sickest cats. The Cincinnati SPCA donated $1,000. Eventually, the team was able to remove all of the animals. Six cats have died; others are living in shelters and foster homes, but the organizations still need more money and help.

Foreclosure activity in Ohio surged in April, up 39% from March and 135% from April 2006, pushing the state's total to the third-largest in the nation. That's 11,431 filings, or one filing for every 418 households -- 1.9 times the national average of one filing for every 783 households. For the thousands of Ohioans and others struggling to find money for food and shelter, pet care is often the last thing on their minds. "They spiral down, and financially and in their personal life, everything just falls apart for them," says Anita Barron of Pet Alliance, the rescue group taking care of administrative work for Cincinnati's "foreclosure cats."

Resources for pet owners

If you're facing foreclosure and are unable to care for your animals, call a shelter such as the Best Friends Animal Society.

Spaying or neutering your pets will save you money in the long term because a female cat can have a litter of as many as seven kittens up to three times a year -- that's a lot of extra cat food. Spay/USA is a nationwide network and referral service for affordable spay and neuter services with a hot line (1-800-248-SPAY). Surgery at one of the clinics in the network averages $50, about half of the average cost in a vet's office.

"So many problems are very complex; this is a simple problem," says Spay/USA founder Esther Mechler. "And it's scary to think that with rising foreclosures, these animals will be some of the hidden victims."

July 11th, 2007, 02:46 PM
:mad: I just read this on msn and was about to post's so horrible. I hope that with this being so common that local humane societies might work together with authorities in charge of forclosures so that they are able to visit the houses immediatley and save these pets before they get to this state.

July 11th, 2007, 02:57 PM
That is just sick,i understand if you lose your home,are broke and have no where to go that you might have to re home your pet,but to move out and just leave your pet in the house to die is really friggin sick,cruel,and whoever would do something like that needs to be put in jail to rot for awhile,i could not imagine if me and mark lost our condo just packing our crap walking out the door and leaving roxy in there and not lookin back.I do not feel an ounce of pity for someone who loses there home and feels so helpless and mad at the same time that there pet just is no longer a priority,i hope those people stay homeless.

July 11th, 2007, 03:12 PM
I couldn't agree more! Would this not fall under animal abuse? They obviously have the people's information..although they may no longer have a phone I guess..but they should be charged with animal cruelty and abandonment.

July 11th, 2007, 03:25 PM
You would think,so hard to imagine how many people are out there like that,i mean how do they sleep at night knowing there pet is alone,going to the bathroom inside the house,confused,hungry and basically about to start slowly dying.That is just sick.

July 11th, 2007, 03:28 PM
just the kind of people that should never ever have pets..

July 11th, 2007, 06:26 PM
I just got off the phone with a lawyer friend who called while I was reading this and I told him about the news article. He said that technically -- the mortgaging bank would be the ones responsible for most of these animals by the time they were 'discovered'. The day the foreclosure procedure begins formally -- BEFORE the physical eviction of the former property owners -- the house legally belongs to the bank. If animals are left suffering for weeks or months following an eviction.... Then (he asks.. not me) why has no one confronted the mortgage lender about THEIR responsibility concerning what is taking place on their property?

Also -- as unfortunate as it is -- pets still fall under 'property' laws in all 50 states. When they are left in the home following an eviction it is the same legally as furniture or other goods left behind. Anything left on the property belongs to the bank... and becomes their responsibility. Yet these places are 'abandoned' for extended periods of time...

What seems like a viable solution (considering that all the rest involves trying to get money or resources out of people who are obviously so low on both that they're now homeless) is to actually hold large mortgage lenders accountable to the same property laws that individual property owners are expected to follow. That is -- someone representing the entity that now owns that property deed should be physically on the property for inspection, maintenance, cleanup, etc. following a foreclosure -- and periodically afterwards. If they actually did this -- then there would not be animals left for weeks or months in 'abandoned' houses dying of dehydration and starvation... I hope.