In early December 2009, an animal sanctuary in Rhode Island was foreclosed upon, the owner evicted, and the animals ignored for 24 hours while the financial institutions stuck to their protocol of not allowing anyone onto the site. You can read more about this story on the blog:
The standard protocol for dealing with foreclosed and abandoned properties doesn't work when animals are involved. The unprecedented situation of the sanctuary in Rhode Island merely highlighted a problem that is happening every day as animals are left behind in houses their owners can no longer afford.
Considering the record number of foreclosures, and the fact that about two-thirds of American households have pets, we need national policy that accounts for pet care when properties revert to bank ownership.
First and foremost, it should be up to owners to take responsibility for their animals and to provide for them in case of emergency, whether it's a natural disaster or financial crisis. When the owners fail their animals by abandoning them, there needs to be a clear protocol to ensure that the animals are properly cared for.
Photo credit: irargerich
At the beginning of December, 136 animals were left behind at Bonniedale Farm in Rhode Island without care after the owner was evicted in a foreclosure. The owner was not allowed to return, but the local humane organization wasn't allowed to provide care either. This situation was totally unprecedented and the financial institutions had no protocol on how to deal with it. Yet with pets in two-thirds of American households, and a record number of foreclosures, this is a problem that many communities struggle with on a smaller scale every day.
While owners should take responsibility for their pets and provide alternate housing in the case of foreclosure, that doesn't always happen. When pets are left behind, someone needs to take responsibility for their care. We desperately need policies that will guide financial institutions and local humane organizations in how to work together to make sure that animals aren't left to suffer when property is repossessed. Policies would not only protect the animals, but also the communities from the costs and health risks associated with abandoned pets.
The sanctuary in Rhode Island is not the only large-scale animal operation that's been struggling in this economy. But whether it's 1 dog or 136 farm animals being left behind, they need care no matter who owns the property.
Please help our animals and our communities by passing legislation that ensures immediate care for any pets left behind in foreclosures.