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Abandoned Pets Need Your Help

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Abandoned pets is a major social issue. With millions of homeowners expected to face foreclosures and other personal disasters in 2008, untold numbers of dogs, cats and other animals are at risk of being abandoned by their owners.  These abandoned pets are sometimes referred to as foreclosure pets.  But even if you can't adopt or foster one of these abandoned pets yourself, there are many things you can do to help pets during tough times.

If you know or suspect that a neighbor is preparing to move soon due to a financial hardship, find out if they've made arrangements for their pets. If not, encourage the owner to:

  • Ask relatives, friends, neighbors and coworkers if they'd be willing to foster or adopt the animal.
  • Choose a property that allows pets, if they're considering an apartment or other rental property.
  • Ask a local shelter or pet adoption organization to house their pet for a limited time at no charge while they search for new housing
  • Contact a local animal rescue group and ask if they are able to temporarily foster the animal.
  • Get in touch with the breeder - if the pet is a purebred dog - who may be willing to take the dog back or find it a new home.
  • Talk with local veterinarians and learn if low-cost boarding is offered while they seek a new home.
  • Post a free listing for an available pet or search for rescue and adoption resources at Petfinder.com, Adopt A Pet.com, Pets911 and craigslist.org.
  • Turn the pet over to a local humane society shelter or open-admission animal control shelter as a last resort.

If you suspect any pets left behind after an owner has vacated a property, take the following steps:

  • Contact the home's real estate/foreclosure agent or your local police department or humane society to inform them of the abandoned pet.
  • Without breaking into the house, violating any laws or putting yourself at risk, attempt to provide a small amount of food and water to the animal until the proper authorities arrive.
  • Work with local authorities to get the animal placed in a new home -hang up flyers, post online notices of the pet's availability, and spread positive word-of-mouth.

Careful and prompt action is important once a forsaken pet is discovered, according to experts.

"Animals who are locked up in an abandoned property will not survive if left for very long,'' said Stephanie Scroggs, International Director of Communications for SPCA International, Washington, D.C. "They are not able to get out of their confines to search for food and water. And they risk being exposed to extreme weather conditions and temperatures.''

Keep in mind that while they can go without food for many days, a dog or cat can become dehydrated within 24 hours without water and could die in extreme heat or cold within a few days.

Dr. Kimberly May, assistant director of the Department of Professional and Public Affairs, American Veterinary Medical Association, Schaumburg, Ill., cautions rescuers that trying to be a hero can sometimes end in frustration.

"Dogs left in homes may attempt to protect their territory when strangers enter the home,'' May said. "Protective behavior and associated aggression can make it difficult for foreclosure company agents to capture a dog, and animal control officers may be called in to do so. Also, cats may hide when strangers enter the house, reducing their chance of being found.''

Lastly, be aware that local laws may prohibit you from your rescue efforts. Pets have virtually no rights because they are considered personal property in most states, and personal property left behind by owners is subject to seizure by the lender repossessing the home. Unfortunately, some laws don't consider personal property to be forfeited until after a set time period, which prevents lenders from removing pets from the property and outsiders from interfering on the animal's behalf.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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