The post originally appeared on Stop Foreclosure Help.
For families who may be at risk of losing their home, a foreclosure will typically come with a variety of stressful changes. Jobs, schools, friends and the familiarities of your home and neighborhood will often get left behind. And its not just the human members of the family that feel the brunt of the changes.
When it comes to foreclosure, pets will often be abandoned or left behind by their families. Less of a malicious act and more of an unfortunate byproduct of the foreclosure and relocation process, losing a pet can often be traumatic to a family already forced to make hard financial and life decisions.
Here we talk about the growing problem of foreclosed upon pets, alternatives to abandoning your pet if you are facing a foreclosure and some ideas for how you can help friends or family that may be facing this issue.
Why Home Owners Abandon Pets
Before we talk about the why’s of foreclosure, first we need to set the stage with a few numbers. As of 2015, nearly 80 million households in the U.S. owned pets. That’s 65% of all households, or approximately 2 out of every 3. Pet ownership isn’t confined to suburbs or rural areas with yards and areas to run either. Increasingly, urban centers and large cities are becoming more pet friendly and homeowners are demanding facilities and resources to accommodate this growing trend. The type of pet isn’t just reserved to dogs either.
Across the nation, cats continue to be the No. 1 pet of choice for households due to their smaller size and independent natures. Dogs come in a close second. While dogs are slightly more likely to be abandoned than other types of pets, there are no exclusions when it comes to foreclosure pets. Abandoned pet rescues report that cats, birds, dogs, reptiles and a variety of small mammals all manage to make it into shelters after their owners fall victim to a foreclosure.
The reasons people may choose to leave behind their animal family members are complex and varied. One of the most common considerations for foreclosed families is the future living arrangement. When owning a home, families can choose any number or type of pet to fit their specific needs. When relocating or moving to rental properties, families may be limited in size, weight or species. Many rentals will only accept pets up to a certain weight limit, typically in the lower range of under 75 or 50lbs.
Landlords are also cautious regarding the type of pet. Some will only accept dogs and not cats or any smaller mammals or exotic pets. Landlords may also impose breed restrictions if they do allow dogs. It isn’t uncommon to find many different breeds of dogs on a prohibited pet list in a rental agreement.
In addition to renting, families facing foreclosure are often forced to downsize. The new home may not have the physical space available to safely and comfortably accommodate the household pet. Monetary considerations will also come into play. Pets require food and veterinary care which may stress the finances or families already facing debt or financial issues due to a foreclosure. Finally, foreclosure is an incredibly stressful time for everyone involved. For all of these reasons and ones that are specific to each situation, families will often feel overwhelmed and not know what to do when given an ultimatum to leave their home after a foreclosure has occurred.
Legal Implications of Foreclosed Upon Pets
Beyond the emotional toll abandoning a pet can take on a family, there may be serious legal consequences to leaving Fido behind without making arrangements for their care and well being. In most states it is a misdemeanor to abandon your pet without a long-term plan for food, shelter and fresh water. These laws don’t just apply to dogs. Although cats may seem more resilient, abandoning them to live on the streets not only could get you in legal trouble, it also contributes to the rising epidemic of feral cats.
In addition to criminal penalties, even if you abandon your pet you may still be liable for their behavior. If your foreclosed upon pet bites or attacks someone visiting the property, or even while roaming freely, you could face civil liability for the injuries in addition to fines and criminal penalties for failure to control a dangerous animal.
Preventing Abandonment of Pets
Abandoning a foreclosed upon pet isn’t typically a malicious act. Most homeowners when faced with a foreclosure feel helpless and aren’t aware that there may be other options available to them. Before you leave your beloved family member behind, first consider alternatives courses of action that could avoid liability and could potentially help you keep your pet or reunite with them down the line.
Tips for Homeowners Facing Foreclosure with Pets
While the below list isn’t exhaustive, it offers a great start for anyone facing a foreclosure that wants to do the right thing when it comes to your family pet.
- Plan early: The foreclosure process is often lengthy and the dates which homeowners must vacate are known well in advance. If you start planning and researching your options for your pet early you will have better and more numerous options than if you wait until the last minute.
- Seek financial assistance: There are numerous organizations that will help families facing foreclosure with temporary financial assistance. Many of these will include resources to help pay for food bills for your pet. Many local animal shelters have coupons or funds available for families in need of pet food. Most require only some form of documentation to demonstrate proof of need. Crowdfunding is also a popular option. Sites like GoFundMe and similar platforms can allow pet owners to create a forum where friends and family members can all chip in to help support your pet and your family’s needs during a foreclosure crisis.
- Know your options: The internet is a great tool for providing resources on a variety of topics. Instead of assuming you ned to abandon your pet, do a quick search to see what resources may be available in your particular area. Some areas that have a large number of foreclosures may have systems in place designed to fit your particular situation.
- Negotiate with landlord: Don’t think you need to leave your foreclosure pets behind, just because the initial lease contract with your landlord in your new home prohibits dogs or has a size limitation. Rental agreements, like most contracts, are often negotiable. Speak with your landlord and explain your situation. If you can demonstrate that your dog or pet is well behaved, you may be able to convince the property owner to give an exception. Be aware that your landlord may ask for an additional deposit or fee. Also, whatever the agreement, be sure to get it in writing and don’t rely on someone’s verbal assurance.
- Find a private home: If keeping your dog or cat isn’t an option, try looking for someone who is actively seeking to adopt a pet. If you place the animal with a friend or family member, you and your family may still be able to visit and see them from time to time. If placing with a private family, be sure to do your research first. Ask the family for references from their local vet and follow up to be sure their past pets have been well cared for. Be cautious of scams or people that may be acquiring dogs or cats for nefarious purposes.
- Investigate boarding options: If you have the resources and the uncertainty regarding your living situation is temporary, you may want to investigate boarding your pet. If you need a temporary home for your dog, animal shelters will sometimes provide boarding services for a reduced rate to families in need if they have the extra space available. Private kennels and doggie daycare facilities also often long or short term boarding options.
- Contact a local rescue: If you and your family have decided that you just can’t keep your pet due to your foreclosure, before turning to an animal shelter, investigate local private rescue groups. Many rescues are breed specific. For example, Mastiff type dogs will often have different regional and local rescues that are experienced in dealing with dogs of that particular size and temperament. There are rescues available for most breeds, from German Shepherds to Golden Retrievers to Chihuahuas. Rescues are also available to cats and small or exotic animals. A private rescue is often preferable to turning your dog into a shelter as these organizations do not euthanize animals and will find foster homes where your dog will be happy and comfortable until a new permanent living situation is found.
How to Save Abandoned Pets
If you are looking to help out a puppy, adult dog, kitten or cat, that may have been abandoned in a foreclosure, there are multiple organizations and resources at your disposal. Local abandoned pet rescues, animal shelters and even newspaper ads can all be great places to help your family adopt a pet in need. While most of these places will have an abundance of dogs and cats, smaller animals are also sometimes available.
Adopt vs. Buying a Puppy
If you are looking to adopt a pet for your family, we should briefly talk about adopting vs buying a puppy. While buying a puppy from a reputable breeder has its benefits, there are thousands of perfectly healthy, happy and well behaved animals also available for adoption. Regardless of where you get your next family pet from, there are a few considerations. First, the last place you should ever go to look for a new pet is the mall or commercial pet store. These animals are often sold at inflated prices with sketchy health histories and come from commercial pet farms that house their dogs in poor conditions. Do your research and if you must purchase, do so from a responsible breeder who has provided loving care to your new family member prior to it joining your home.
If you are adopting through a rescue or the local animal shelter, don’t be afraid to pay lots of visits. Unlike buying a dog of a specific breed where there will often be common traits, shelters will have a variety of different breeds and mixes of breeds. You should spend some time with your potential new family member before deciding to adopt to see if there are any quirks or behaviors that may not fit in with your lifestyle.
What is the Best Pet to Adopt for my Family?
But before you even make that trip to the local animal shelter or peruse websites for available pets, you should do some research on which is the right pet for your family. Things to consider include size, energy level, temperament and maintenance needs. If you have small children, larger breeds may be prone to knock them down accidentally without proper training. If you are older or less active, a dog that has a lot of energy, such as a retriever, greyhound or pointer, may not be the best fit unless you are willing to go for daily runs.
If you have a busy life, you should consider how much coat maintenance you are willing to perform on a weekly or daily basis. While some longhaired breeds such as Afghan Hounds or Shit-Zu’s may be pretty in pictures, in reality it takes a large amount of grooming and maintenance to get that perfect, manicured look. Be sure to also pay attention to those rental property agreements we talked about earlier, as those may restrict you on size or breed. The AKC, or American Kennel Club, has a variety of online and print resources available to help narrow down the breed, or mix of breeds if you are adopting.
Animal Shelters and Rescue/Adoption groups.
More than 2,500 animal shelters and rescue adoption groups spread nationwide for you to find and save the best pet for your family.
We hope we’ve given you a headstart on everything you need to know about foreclosures and pets. In summary, remember that if you are on the receiving end of a foreclosure notice, you have resources available to help deal with issues such as pet ownership and abandoning your pet should always be the last resort. Also, if you are in search of a new pet, why not consider giving a foreclosure pet a second chance at a great home?