Hunters hit foreclosed pets

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:
Grand Rapids–Pressured for just one weekend by the
pro-hunting U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the 182-store Meijer retail
chain on April 28, 2008 bagged a pet photo contest meant to benefit
the Foreclosure Pets Fund, a project of the Humane Society of the
“Meijer Inc. ducked after finding itself in the crosshairs,”
reported Shandra Martinez of the Grand Rapids Press.
Founded in Grand Rapids in 1932, Meijer now operates stores
throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. The
Meijer contest was to donate $1.00, up to $5,000, for every entry
in the online photo contest.

“Money donated to HSUS through this promotion, while not going
directly to its anti-hunting campaign, will free up money from the
organization’s general fund that can be used to attack the rights of
sportsmen,” the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance charged in an April 25 web
posting that urged hunters to contact Meijer chair Hank Meijer.
“Richard N. Cabela, founder of the outdoor retailing giant
Cabela’s Inc., is the [U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance] chairman of the
board,” Martinez noted. Cabela’s and Meijer carry partially
overlapping lines of merchandise, and compete for business from
hunters and fishers.
“The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance takes aim at animals when
they’re most vulnerable,” commented HSUS senior vice president for
legislation Mike Markarian, citing “Polar bears in the Arctic, as
their ice floes are vanishing, mourning doves in states where
they’ve been protected for decades, and endangered antelope stocked
in fenced pens for captive trophy hunts. But now this Ohio-based
trade association for weapons manufacturers has stooped to a new
low,” Markarian said. “By firing with its blunderbuss, the group
is going to wind up with dogs and cats in its trophy case.”
The Foreclosure Pets Fund, Markarian said, is “an emergency
fund to help the animal victims of housing foreclosures,” a
fast-growing category of animal surrenders to shelters and rescue
groups that before October 2007 was barely recognized.
“The first reports of a foreclosure pet crisis to reach HSUS
came late last year out of California, which has the nation’s
highest foreclosure rates,” reported Diane C. Lade of the South
Florida Sun-Sentinel. “South Florida is close behind. According to
the research firm, 1,700 Palm Beach County home owners
and 2,200 home owners in Broward were at least 90 days behind on
their mortgage payments in February 2008 and close to foreclosure.
That was double the number in February 2007.”
The crisis was already developing in February 2007, but went
mostly unrecognized until Charlotte Sun-Herald correspondent Gerald
A. Rogovin noted on October 23, 2007 that “A little known part of
the fallout from the record pace of foreclosures of homes has been
the impact on pet owners. Four times the number of homes seized by
lenders in 2006 were recorded in the first nine months of this year
in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Manatee counties,” Rogovin wrote,
explaining that former home owners who are forced to move into
apartments or shared dwellings are often obliged to give up pets they
acquired when they had space of their own–and fenced yards.
“For the last two months, we’ve received an unprecedented
number of requests from people pleading for us to take their dogs and
cats,” Sarasota in Defense of Animals president Elise M. Matthes
told Rogovin. “Most who contact us are losing their homes and moving
into rentals where pets are prohibited. They are severely distraught,
because there is no ‘no-kill’ shelter or sanctuary in the county that
will take pets,” Matthes continued. “Most area shelters are bulging
at the seams.”
As foreclosures tripled in St. Lucie County, surrenders of
pets to the Humane Society of St. Lucie County increased by 44%,
executive director Frank Andrews told Elliott Jones of the Vero Beach
Press Journal.
By spring 2008, the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in West
Palm Beach had added foreclosure to their data base on why people
give up pets, reported Lade of the Sun-Sentinel. In the first month
that “foreclosure” surrenders were tracked, only four people cited
foreclosure as their primary reason for giving up an animals, Lade
summarized, but “another 56 cited ‘moving,’ and 11 more said they
were ‘unable to find housing’ that allows pets,” Lade continued.
Surrenders of pets for the latter two reasons have been
common for as long as reasons for giving up and animal have been
tracked, since the Great Depression in some regions–and tend to
surge with downturns in the economy, while adoptions and donations
to animal charities plummet.
“Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control saw a 12% increase
in the number of surrenders toward the end of last year, as the
housing market worsened,” Lade noted.
“We are hoping to identify people who are in crisis and find
[their pets] foster homes on a short-term basis,” Peggy Adams Animal
Rescue League executive director Joan Carlson Radabaugh told Lade.
“And we need to show landlords that there are ways they can permit
pets responsibly.”
The “foreclosure pets” issue boosted the efforts of Citizens
for Pets in Condos, founded by South Florida resident Maida Genser
in early 2007 to try to overcome the frequent opposition of
condominium boards to keeping dogs and cats.
The California crisis followed a parallel pattern.
Foreclosed families “have a hard enough time even qualifying for a
rental because their credit is shot, and 98% of landlords don’t take
dogs,” realtor Leo Nordine told Los Angeles Times staff writer
Martin Zimmer-man. “So if you’ve been foreclosed and you have a pit
bull, good luck.”
Nordine, of Hermosa Beach, “finds abandoned dogs at least
once a month,” Zimmer-man wrote. “Sometimes they’re chained in a
yard, sometimes locked in the house. They are often emaciated, if
alive at all.”
“Foreclosed people don’t know what’s going to happen to them,
and they figure someone will take care of the cat,” said Jacky
deHaviland of Muttshack Animal Res-cue in Los Angeles.
Relocating after a foreclosure with exotic or unusual pets is
even more difficult than moving with dogs and cats, putting those
animals at greater risk of abandonment. In one case, “More than 200
reptiles worth an estimated $90,000 were found abandoned in a
freezing, filthy room attached to a garage in Hesperia,” recounted
Victorsville Daily Press staff writer Brooke Edwards. “Most were
alive, though weak. Some had died from cold or dehydration,
including two gila monsters.”
“Not long ago,” Edwards added, “a real estate agent called
Joel Almquist of the Forever Wild Exotic exotic animal sactuary,” in
Phelan, California, “after finding six potbellied pigs abandoned at
a foreclosed property.”
Pets “are getting dumped all over,” said Humane Society of
Stanislaus County president Terri Jennings to Evelyn Nieves of
Associated Press. “Farm-ers are finding dogs dumped on their grazing
grounds, while house cats are showing up in wild cat colonies.”
Wrote Nieves, “Despite months of warning before a
foreclosure, many homeowners run out the clock, hoping to forestall
an eviction. Then they panic.”
“They’re usually breaking down on the phone,” San Joaquin
Animal Shelter dispatcher Kathy Potter told Nieves. “I’m quite
direct with them that there’s a 50-50 chance the animals might be put
Placer County SPCA director Leilani Vierra told Cynthia
Hubert of the Sacramento Bee that at least 20% of the dogs and cats
who were surrendered to the Placer County SPCA in January 2008 came
from people who had lost their homes or were otherwise in dire
financial distress.
The “foreclosure pets” crisis hit Massachusetts in December
2007. “We started noticing it a month ago,” Salem Animal Rescue
League shelter manager Deborah Vaughn told North Andover
Eagle-Tribune staff writer Margo Sullivan in January 2008.
“Ray Denis, the rescue league’s director of development,
said the staff has seen whole families giving up their pets before
they go into homeless shelters due to the mortgage crisis,” Sullivan
By then, “foreclosure pets” were becoming a phenomenon
throughout the U.S.
“We’re seeing quite a few animals being surrendered due to
economic reasons, including foreclosure,” confirmed Naperville Area
Humane Society assistant executive director Angie Wood to Chicago
Tribune reporter Mary Umberger.
“We’re probably getting 25 a week coming to us for those
reasons,” agreed [Chicago] Animal Welfare League spokesperson Terri
Community Animal Relief Effort president Linda Gelb told
Umberger that CARE had rescued four dogs in three weeks whose people
were losing their homes.
Umberger noted four cases of animals being abandoned in
foreclosed properties when the owners were forced out. She also
described how Cincinnati artist and animal rescuer Robin Moro created
a web site, <>, to raise funds for 63 cats who
were found in a foreclosed house.
“Complaints to the Michigan Humane Society about abandoned
animals have nearly tripled since 2003 to 1,381 last year. They come
as foreclosures have jumped 68% percent statewide,” wrote Steve
Pardo of the Detroit News.
Humane Society of Greater Dayton executive director Brian
Weltge told Dayton Daily News staff writer Joe Giessler that the
humane society received more owner-surrendered animals in December
2007 than in any other year since 2002.
“We’re seeing three times as many owner-surrender calls
compared to two years ago,” observed Georgia SPCA director Joan
Sammond to Eileen Drennen of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In Montgomery, Maryland, a suburb of Washington D.C. and
Baltimore, “about 15% of animals received in the past two months are
a result of foreclosures or related economic dislocations, up from
about 3% last year,” Montgomery Humane Society president J.C. Crist
told Washington Post staff writer Steve Hendrix.
Eviction or foreclosure was listed as the reason for only 43
pet surrenders among a total of 1,346 in 2007 at the Delaware SPCA
shelters in Stanton and George-town, interim director Vonda Lunsford
told Robin Brown of the Wilmington News Journal. But any increase in
surrenders is of concern when less money is coming into shelters and
fewer animals are finding new homes.
Betsy Saul, founder of, told Tammy Joyner of the
Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she recently found that adoptions
are down at nearly 60% of the shelters in 10 states.
“Most of these [foreclosed] animals are loyal pets,” Animal
Resource Center of Mont- gomery County (Ohio) director Mark Kumpf
told Giessler of the Dayton Daily News. “You can’t explain this
situation to a dog.”

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