Now, Foreclosed Pets Are Being Rescued as Well

The mortgage and foreclosure crises have spread far and wide, nationally and internationally. Now a new rescue effort includes help for pets abandoned by distressed homeowners.

A mortgage industry veteran is bringing together all rescuers with "No Paws Left Behind" a unique nonprofit that aims to raise awareness and find solutions for what appears to be a growing, yet invisible phenomena of pets left behind by foreclosed owners.

"In an effort to help families coping with the devastating foreclosure process, we are bringing awareness to the growing trend of abandoned pets and offering possible solutions," said Cheryl Lang, president of Integrated Mortgage Solutions here, a collateral protection resource for the mortgage servicing industry, and founder of No Paws Left Behind.

The number of "foreclosure pets" may get quite large. According to recent statistics, the nonprofit said, 63% of all American households have pets. Furthermore, since experts agree that around two to four million Americans will lose their homes before the foreclosure crisis ends, that leaves more than 1.25 million companion animals at risk.

"For more than five years, my company and I have been dedicated to professionally and sympathetically working with borrowers, lenders and servicers throughout loss mitigation and default management," she said. "Unfortunately, it is this experience that has brought me face-to-face with abandoned animals and their heart-wrenching stories. As the mortgage industry and the nation embrace legislative improvements, we must keep in mind those silent victims who cannot speak up for themselves."

That reality inspired Ms. Lang to create an organization designed to help foreclosure victims find shelters for their pets and "bring awareness to all communities the silent victims of foreclosure who have no voice or rights to implement change," the nonprofit said. Its stated goal is "to act as a support group for those who find foreclosure imminent and need help to find shelter for their beloved pets," as well as to serve as a resource for those who find or know of abandoned pets, and to start an organized national movement that will help change "laws categorizing pets as personal property."

Proving there is a need for legal change, the nonprofit said, is the fact that "outdated legislation prevents the removal of pets from abandoned properties prior to the eviction process, placing code inspection officers in a difficult position." So one of the organization's current goals is to repeal this law on the national level. The first step in that direction has been the establishment of a website petition.

The www.NoPawsLeftBehind.org site also provides information on local animal shelters and other alternative housing providers based on zip code. Website users can locate "No Kill" animal shelters, temporary foster care and pet deposit assistance options for borrowers forced to relocate. It also provides information for qualified animal shelters and foster care providers who are seeking financial assistance.

"We founded 'No Paws Left Behind' to provide homeowners facing foreclosure with a resource for finding alternative housing for their pets during this difficult time. Through visiting our website, borrowers are provided with an array of housing options for pets," Ms. Lang said. "No Paws Left Behind will also provide monetary assistance for pet deposits required by new landlords."

Homeowner tips include information on lender and loan workout options or foreclosure misconceptions. Such as the fear that once a property is foreclosed owners will "find their belongings on the curb," which often is the reason why many borrowers vacate their property prematurely and/or leave their pets behind. For example, "No Paws Left Behind" recommends borrowers should contact their lender to discuss individual workout options since lenders can offer many other options for distressed borrowers aside from foreclosure.

Homeowners facing foreclosure are advised to never leave pets behind when you vacate your home. Instead, homeowners in this situation should take pets along because they will not survive if abandoned. In addition, they can offer comfort and therapeutic benefits to distressed family members. If unable to take them immediately, owners can consider temporary solutions including friends, family, or local animal rescue organizations that do not euthanize adoptable animals.

Some shelters offer pet housing for periods of up to 60 days, for example, at no cost, or at a reduced cost. Open-admission animal shelters are available too. While it is inhumane to leave pets behind, the nonprofit said, it may also be illegal given that state criminal animal-cruelty laws may apply.

Mortgage lenders foreclosing on a home with pets are advised to consult with their district attorney's office to verify the local requirements. However lenders who have started monthly delinquency inspections should check for pets inside and outside at all inspections. The nonprofit pleads with lenders to, "Please work with your local district attorney's office and animal control agency to develop a protocol to protect abandoned pets from harm." (c) 2008 Mortgage Servicing News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved. http://www.mortgageservicingnews.com/ http://www.sourcemedia.com/