Back in early summer, when home foreclosures were already escalating at alarming rates and a new term, “foreclosure pets” was starting to appear in news stories, I wrote about the sad consequences of foreclosures for many family pets (see Food Prices And Foreclosures No Help To Fido). Animals are often left behind when homes are abandoned by foreclosure. It’s not that people stopped loving their pets; sometimes they are simply forced to choose been keeping their family’s basic bills paid and paying for dog or cat food, much less veterinary care.
When I was writing about the situation in my bankruptcy blog, I was careful to remind my blog readers that, after almost twenty-five years of helping debtors go through the bankruptcy court process or go through foreclosure, I know that the vast majority of foreclosures don’t happen because homeowners neglected their obligations (either to their families or their pets). Foreclosure typically is the last of a chain of troubles that might have begun with a layoff of the breadwinner, with an expensive medical illness in the family, or a combination of the two. It might even be that, after a foreclosure, the debtor needed to find an apartment to rent, and couldn’t find one that allowed pets.
Knowing that I, as a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana who deals with thousands of people every year, would understand the urgency of the situation, a friend forwarded to me an email she’d received, asking me to think about anyone I know who might be a potential adopter or who might provide a foster care home for a dog or cat. The email had originated from the Humane Society of Hamilton County, explaining that their shelter is absolutely full, partly because of foreclosures, and partly because people just could no longer afford to keep the pets. The shelter director was also afraid that, following the holidays, some children who’d wanted pets would change their minds, and that even more pets might become homeless.
I decided this blog was as good a way as any to put out the word about pets available for adoption. At the same time, thinking about foreclosure pets makes me want to once again emphasize how important it is to seek professional help at the first sign of financial trouble. For one thing, the earlier in the process I can talk to a client, the greater the possibility for negotiating with the lender to try to keep the home from being foreclosed. But, even if foreclosure is inevitable, there might be time to find a good home for the family pet, making the process of bankruptcy and foreclosure a little more – humane.