The number of foreclosures on U.S. properties was 46% higher in March 2009 than it was a year earlier. Among other problems, this trend -- and the country's recession -- has given rise to a heart-breaking new breed: foreclosure pets. Dogs, cats, horses, and birds are abandoned, left to fend for themselves after their owners take off without taking them along -- or placing them in shelters. These animals, bereft of human caretakers, are basically left to perish.
It is our philosophical and economical responsibility to continue saving animals even in spite of a, well, "ruff" financial market. In 1999, I started Animal Fair magazine and Web site, dedicated to promoting fairness to animals, responsible breeding and animal rescue. Our annual events have raised thousands of dollars for local shelters across the country.
One alpha dog, however, was recently elected to the global stage, simultaneously addressing the economy and animal rescue.
When Barack Obama took office, he promised to pass a monetary stimulus package to jump-start the sagging economy and to find a hypoallergenic, child-friendly dog -- preferably from a shelter -- for his daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Although the Obamas didn't end up adopting from a shelter, they did rescue a second-chance Portuguese water dog, named him Bo, and gave him the opportunity to live in a very big White House. But other pets haven't been so lucky. Animals nationwide are increasingly becoming homeless casualties of the recession.
When the door closes on these pets for the last time, a variety of unfortunate situations can occur. They are abandoned without food or water. Fleas attack. They are left to breed uncontrollably. Even when authorities discover these poor animals, they are often too injured, dehydrated, starved or sick to be saved.
Just a few of hundreds of reported foreclosure cases affecting animals have made it into the news: 20 birds abandoned in Ohio; 24 horses left on a ranch in Oklahoma; still more horses seen wandering the Florida Everglades and coal mines in Kentucky when desperate owners set them loose to scavenge on their own. Authorities in Cincinnati even discovered over 50 abandoned cats.
If they are found, these helpless animals are often brought to rescue shelters across the nation. But these facilities are rapidly becoming overburdened. That's just one more reason why Americans must step up during these tough economic times, dig deep into our hearts and extend a hand whenever we can.