THE BLOG
12/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Facing Foreclosure? 3 Reasons Not To Abandon Your Pets

As a pet owner, I understand how the costs of feeding and caring for a pet can add up. But the CNN.com story "Mortgage meltdown results in pets going to pound" just about broke my heart.

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Furry signs of a down-trending economy peer dolefully from every kennel at the Broward County Humane Society shelter in Florida and hundreds of others across the country.

Bentley, a 3-year-old Lhasa apso, was given up by his owners because they just couldn't afford to keep him any more.

Tinkerbell, a sweet, docile house cat, was surrendered by her owners after they found out that they had lost their home.

With foreclosures disrupting life, from the family house down to the dog house, and as Americans toil through a tough economic landscape, some of their pets face an even bleaker future in the pound...

Although they no longer have loving homes, Tinkerbell and Bentley are lucky because their owners gave them up to the shelter. Not every pet gets that kind of treatment. Miami-Dade Animal Services says that on a regular basis, it is called to foreclosed properties where neighbors report seeing pets chained up in a backyard or locked inside an empty house.

Full disclosure: I have a bleeding heart when it comes to animals. I cried over the Michael Vick dogs. I cry whenever that Sarah McLaughlin commercial about homeless pets comes on during "Countdown." If I see a dog in a parked car on a summer day, I stand by the car until the owner comes back, poised to call 3-1-1 if it takes more than 5 minutes. Today on my way to work, I saw a squirrel that appeared to stuck under a car and I actually pulled over to make sure it was okay (it was). If my fiance wasn't allergic to most dog and cat breeds, our puppy would probably have several furry roommates (and since I can't bring more animals into our home, I regularly contribute to the ASPCA and Humane Society).

I do understand the difficulties homeowners in foreclosure face, and when it comes to eliminating "expendable" expenses, it may seem like an obvious decision to eliminate your pet from the equation. But consider the following.

1. YOU DON'T HAVE TO LOSE YOUR PET DUE TO COSTS: "Pet owners don't have to choose between taking care of their pets or taking care of themselves," CNN reports. "Most local shelters offer vaccinations, spaying or neutering at a fraction of the cost of a private veterinarian's office." Contact the Humane Society (202-452-1100, www.hsus.org) or ASPCA (212-876-7700, www.aspca.org) to find a shelter that can help offset your costs.

2. Whether your pet is young or old, it has adjusted to its lifestyle with you in your home. Simply losing a familiar home would be hard, but having you by his or her side would help your pet adjust to new surroundings comfortably. Losing a home AND an owner is traumatic, and your pet likely won't recover fully. If adopted, he or she may have separation anxiety issues. I adopted a pair of cats several years ago who were seniors (both over 12 years old). Their owner had died, and they had been bounced around from pound to shelter for years. Even though I knew they appreciated moving into my happy home, they constantly attacked one another and anyone who came into my house. Your pets love you, and want to be with you as much as possible. Remember that when you consider putting them through the pain of separation, in addition to a sad and frightening life in a pound or shelter.

3. Your pet can actually help you through the stressful time you're going through.

"The therapeutic use of pets as companions has gained increasing attention in recent years for a wide variety of patients -people with AIDS or cancer, the elderly, and the mentally ill. Unlike people, with whom our interactions may be quite complex and unpredictable, animals provide a constant source of comfort and focus for attention. Animals bring out our nurturing instinct. They also make us feel safe and unconditionally accepted. We can just be ourselves around our pets... In a study conducted at City Hospital in New York, it was found that heart patients who owned the pets were significantly more likely to be alive a year after they were discharged from the hospital than those who didn't own pets. The presence of a pet was found to give higher boost to the survival rate than having a spouse or friends." (Read More)

If you truly must surrender your pet, please do not simply abandon him or her on the streets or chained somewhere. Contact the Humane Society (202-452-1100, www.hsus.org) or ASPCA (212-876-7700, www.aspca.org) and give your pet to a no-kill, cruelty-free shelter. Many of the shelters these organizations can direct you to have foster programs, where your pet may be able to live in a temporary home prior to adoption in lieu of a cage in a shelter.

Truly, we need to treat our fellow citizens with more compassion, especially in a situation as dire as foreclosure. However, lets remember to be compassionate about our four-legged citizens as well.

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