Non-Human Victims of the Economic Crisis

Here is a reminder that people are not the only ones who need help in this economy:

Animal lovers are marshaling forces in hopes of minimizing the number of pets that go hungry or land in shelters because their owners can no longer afford to feed them.

Free pet-food pantries are being established in cities and towns across the nation by volunteers concerned about the recession’s effect on pets. And the long lines of pet owners showing up by the thousands for free kibble are growing more diverse each week. Lower-income people are now joined by middle-class folks pummeled by the economy: white-collar workers recently laid off; elderly people who had been receiving regular cash from relatives who can’t afford that anymore; military spouses unable to find work to earn some discretionary income; students who’ve lost their part-time jobs; high-earners with high debt who are dramatically downshifting.

“Some (clients) are a little embarrassed, but everyone can have a financial problem, especially in this economy, and that’s why we’re here,” says Atlanta businesswoman Ann King, who launched Save Our Pets food bank this year after hearing of hundreds of pets being abandoned or left at Atlanta-area shelters because owners were in financial straits. Demand has grown 20% every week since the food bank began last summer, she says; now the group gives away more than 3,000 pounds of cat and dog food a week. On distribution days, as many as 200 people line up for a month’s supply of pet food.

“A lot of the people we serve are right on the edge. They barely missed getting food stamps or have a new job starting in a few weeks or they’re waiting for government assistance,” says Darlene McCaslin, who started Pikes Peak Pet Pantry in Colorado Springs last year. “If we can help during this awful period, it helps them keep a pet dear to them, it helps the animals and it helps the shelters seeing a big increase in the numbers coming in.”

Since January, McCaslin’s group has distributed more than 11,000 pounds of dog and cat food to owners of more than 1,800 pets.

Lack of food is not the only problem animal companions are facing. According to this article in the June 1, 2008, issue of Dog World, the foreclosure crisis is resulting in an abandonment crisis for family pets. The trend even has a name — “foreclosure pets” — and a national organization now exists that works to find solutions for bankrupt, evicted, and foreclosed families so that cats, dogs, and other pets don’t have to be left to starve to death in empty homes. It’s called No Paws Left Behind, and it was started in April of last year by a mortgage industry professional who kept on seeing and hearing about the plight of abandoned pets in the course of doing her job:

Although abandoning animals is, at best, a legally questionable choice, more and more real estate-owned (REO) service providers say they are encountering instances where people leaving distressed properties opt to leave their pets
behind—sometimes leaving them with some food and/or a note, and other times abandoning the animal without food or a forwarding address.

The result, as home inspectors and other real estate professionals are finding with alarming frequency, is that animals are being left behind for days or even weeks without
access to food or water. They are being left to suffer before they are discovered either barely alive or long dead, according to Cheryl Lang, president of Houston-based
Integrated Mortgage Solutions (IMS). The company is a collateral protection resource for the mortgage servicing industry that specializes in property inspections, preservation and default management.
Moved by the plight of helpless, abandoned animals and appalled by the growing trend of “foreclosure pets,” Lang formed the nonprofit No Paws Left Behind in April.
Lang says she was moved to act after one of her inspectors sent her photos from an Alabama property where a dog was left to starve in a carrier with a bag of pet food positioned just a foot away.

“It just really made me angry, and I said, ‘This has got to stop.’
This has happened in the past, but I could see where we were
heading through the mortgage crisis, where this was going to
happen more and more,” explains Lang.

“So 1 just woke up one day, came up with the name and the
concept. Our technology for IMS was a perfect solution for No
Paws Left Behind because it’s all driven by ZIP code. It was just something that needed to be done.”

The organization’s Web site ( directs visitors, based on their ZIP code, to local animal shelters and other alternative housing providers for pets in need.

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