It is not a new problem, but the phenomenon of pets abandoned in foreclosed and repossessed housing is growing as more families lose their homes.
Cheryl Lang, the founder of the nonprofit No Paws Left Behind Inc., juggles dozens of responsibilities daily. She steadily fields calls about abandoned animals from borrowers, real estate agents and field professionals who need help with veterinary bills or pet deposits. Finding homes for these creatures occupies much of her time.
"I was just arranging transportation for 'Mr. Kitty' in Houston that has a home in Orlando," said Lang, who is also the president and chief executive of Integrated Mortgage Solutions, a collateral protection company in Houston. "I'm going to Dallas next week to a conference, and I will meet some people who are from Orlando, so I have arranged to take the kitty to Dallas. … I'm not getting any cooperation from the hotel, but I'm sure we'll figure out something."
No Paws is seeing a great number of small farms entering foreclosure and repossession in the California Sierras. In this mountainous terrain, it is often difficult to coordinate with veterinarians to rescue abandoned animals.
"You have to plan for a certain time, and, lo and behold, the eviction will be postponed and the process will start all over again," Lang said. "It really can take a lot of resources to coordinate those efforts. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't."
When a family leaves a foreclosed property, according to Lang, they frequently find themselves moving into a rental property that does not allow pets or has an exorbitant pet deposit. In some cases, she said, they live with friends and family who simply cannot handle taking on new animals in addition to new people.
"Unfortunately, many homeowners mistakenly believe if they leave their pet it will be found quickly or that the once-beloved dog, cat or sometimes horse or llama can fend for themselves," Lang said. "Some fear that taking their pet to a shelter will mean they will be euthanized."
Lang recommends that contractors working for mortgage servicers call No Paws Left Behind to find out whether the presence of an abandoned animal constitutes permission to enter a home.
"We can then mobilize a rescue crew that will take the abandoned pet to a 'no kill' shelter, where it will not be in danger of euthanasia and that will attempt to put the animal into foster care until it finds a permanent home," she said.
In one foreclosed property, the company recently found a pig that had been left behind in a small cage. "We went online, and our field rep got the special food. It's not cheap. But the pig didn't like it. He wanted corn," she said. "We found him a home."