AVMA asks pet owners facing foreclosure not to abandon animals

Published on March 15, 2008
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A Southern California man surrendered Rocky and Jasmine to the Escondido Humane Society after he lost his home to foreclosure.

In the ongoing foreclosure crisis, some former homeowners have been abandoning their pets—but others may turn to humane organizations or veterinarians for assistance or advice.

The AVMA is urging pet owners who face home foreclosure not to leave their animals behind or on a veterinary clinic's doorstep. "Frequently asked questions about pets and foreclosed homes" is available at www.avma.org by clicking on "Issues" and then looking under "Animal Welfare."

"An increasing number of media reports describe pets found in homes that have been vacated due to foreclosure," according to the AVMA FAQ. "Sometimes these pets have been abandoned but are otherwise healthy; other times, these pets have been found ill, dying, or dead."

For pet owners who lose their homes and must stay in places where animals are not welcome, the FAQ suggests ways to find someone to foster or adopt the animals.

"If asked for advice, I think veterinarians could recommend fostering the pet to a family member or trusted friend until the client finds suitable housing that is more pet-friendly," agreed Dr. Gregory S. Hammer, AVMA president. "As a last resort, when the client is unable to keep the pet, there are many rescue groups that may be able to find a new, loving home."

The FAQ links to Web sites that provide resources to help find homes for pets, including lists of animal shelters. The FAQ notes that while euthanasia is a possibility, animals stand a better chance of adoption at a shelter than in an empty house.

Abigail Rowland, development director for the Escondido Humane Society in Southern California, said the most common reason that pet owners surrender animals to her shelter is because of relocation—though they often don't say why they're moving. Sometimes, the shelter finds animals left in the parking lot.

"I think people are hesitant to bring them to a shelter," Rowland said, because of embarrassment or fear that the pets face euthanasia. "We will at least give them a fighting chance at survival."

One man who lost his home to foreclosure surrendered his two 9-year-old dogs to the shelter recently. He had raised Rocky and Jasmine since they were puppies. It was hard to see their long goodbye, Rowland said, but at least he was able to bring the dogs to a safe place.

Rowland said the Escondido Humane Society encourages pet owners who face relocation to plan early, look for animal-friendly housing, talk to friends or family about temporarily taking pets, and keep the shelter in mind as an option.

National humane organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, have offered similar suggestions in response to the foreclosure crisis.