Pets probably wouldn’t understand, but the rising cost of wheat and corn can change a very pleasant pet existence into a dog’s life! Added to the increased cost of food for the human household members, rising costs of cat or dog food can present a real problem. In one of my earlier bankruptcy blogs, I introduced readers to a sad new moniker – “foreclosure pets”. These are animals left behind in homes abandoned by foreclosure, or pets dropped off at already over-crowded animal shelters because of foreclosures. Much as people love their pets, sometimes they have to choose between keeping their family’s basic bills paid and paying for dog or cat food and medical care. In the confusion and desperation over losing their home, people often believe city officials or perhaps bank representatives will rescue their pet. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case.

It would be easy to condemn such cruel treatment of pets, but as a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana for almost twenty five years, I know that most home foreclosures don’t happen because deadbeat homeowners have neglected their obligations. Typically a foreclosure is at the end of a chain of troubles that began with unemployment due to a layoff, or with an expensive medical illness in the family, or some combination of unforeseen factors like those. When everything seems to be falling apart for you and your family, it’s hard to focus on the fate of your pets. Sometimes, there are very harsh realities to deal with. For example, many former homeowners need to rent apartments, and many apartments don’t allow pets. The pet problem is very widespread. Just about every city’s animal shelter reports being under enormous strain. Mark Kumpt of Dayton, Ohio’s Animal Resource Center, summed up the sad situation: “These animals are the second class of victims in the national economy.”

I’ve often repeated the importance of seeking professional help at the first signs of financial trouble. I find in my bankruptcy law practice that, the earlier in the process debtors seek my help, the more options will be available to them in terms of negotiating with lenders to try to keep their home. Even if foreclosure becomes inevitable, with more time to plan, there is a greater chance of finding a place to live where the pet can move with the family. At the very least, there could be time enough to find someone to adopt the family pet. But what I think is most important to keep in mind, when families are going through times of trouble, their pets can be of great comfort to them. Long, long after the legalities and complexities of bankruptcy or of foreclosure proceedings are over, the unconditional love of a loyal pet won’t have changed by a hair!