Outreach Quickens Effort To Help 'Foreclosure Pets'

Cheryl Lang, founder of the nonprofit organization No Paws Left Behind Inc., gave MSN last month a sense of the dozens of responsibilities she juggles daily and how she does it all with tremendous enthusiasm.

A familiar face in the industry, Lang is well known for her work in pet activism and dedication to helping lenders and servicers navigate today's turbulent waters.

Among recent developments in the former area, No Paws is currently seeing a great deal of small farms entering foreclosure and REO in the California Sierras. Here, in this mountainous terrain, it is often difficult to coordinate with vets to rescue abandoned animals.

"You have to plan for a certain time, and lo and behold the eviction will be postponed and the process will start all over again. It really can take a lot of resources to coordinate those efforts. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't," Lang tells MSN.

She constantly gets calls from borrowers, Realtors and field professionals regarding abandoned animals that need help with vet bills or pet deposits.

Finding homes for these special creatures or "foreclosure pets" occupies much of her time. Checking voicemail and e-mail while on the road helps her stay connected.

"The world is a lot smaller now with all of the technology that we have that I can manage everything when I'm away home," she says.

"I was just arranging transportation for 'Mr. Kitty' in Houston that has a home in Orlando. I'm going to Dallas next week to a conference, and I will meet some people who are from Orlando, so I have arranged to take the kitty to Dallas and they will transfer him to Orlando. I'm not getting any cooperation from the hotel, but I'm sure we'll figure out something."

According to Lang, when a family leaves a foreclosed property, they frequently find themselves moving into a rental that either doesn't allow pets or that has a restrictively expensive pet deposit. In some cases, she says, they live with friends and family who simply can't handle taking on new animals in addition to new people.

"Unfortunately, many homeowners mistakenly believe if they leave their pet it will be found quickly or that the once-beloved dog, cat, or sometimes horse or llama can fend for themselves. Some fear that taking their pet to a shelter will mean they will be euthanized."

Lang recommends that contractors call No Paws Left Behind to find out whether the presence of an abandoned animal constitutes permission to enter a home.

"We can then mobilize a rescue crew that will take the abandoned pet to a 'no kill' shelter, where it will not be in danger of euthanasia and that will attempt to put the animal into foster care until it finds a permanent home," she says.

The company also encourages servicers to engage in a dialogue with their borrowers in order to avoid a foreclosure pet situation.

"If you know a borrower is struggling, ask about any pets they might have and put them in touch with No Paws Left Behind. The organization sometimes can provide foreclosed homeowners with the little extra cash for a pet deposit in a new rental situation, a resolution that benefits everyone."

Working with No Paws is "fun and about doing good," adds Lang. In one foreclosed property, the company recently found a pot-bellied pig that was left behind in a small cage. "We went online and our field rep got the special food. It's not cheap. But the pig didn't like it. He wanted corn," she recalls with a laugh. "We found him a home.

"We try to focus on the pets. That is our sweet spot. Obviously, the small farms have llamas, goats and horses. They need to be taken care of as well. We do the best we can on those. We usually find somebody who has a couple of acres to take in some goats. The tough ones are the horses, because they are so expensive to take care of. People are literally just leaving horses at the vet's house and tying them up to the post. He can't take every one of them in."

Lang says No Paws and her other company, Houston-based Integrated Mortgage Solutions, where she is president and CEO, are both in "the right place at the right time." According to Irvine, Calif.-based foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings are expected to reach 4.5 million by 2011.

IMS, a collateral protection firm offering integrated distressed asset management services, was recently named one of the 50 fastest growing woman-owned/led businesses in North America by the Women Presidents' Organization. Lang's business grew to $17.5 million in 2009 from $8.1 million in 2007. "We pay attention to detail, we QC everything we do, and we think that has paid off in the long run."

IMS is getting involved on the leasing side of the business with brokers as well. The company has reached out to the National Association of Real Estate Brokers and also just joined Women in Default Services. "It's about bringing on other diverse companies and individuals with us to make a perfect match for somebody that wants to use diversity as a bench strength for their heavy lifting of outsourcing," Lang says.

The biggest debate today continues to be with HAMP. "It depends on who you talk to, whether it's successful or not. I read Moody's said 50% of HAMP modifications are failing," notes Lang.

"That's quite a high percentage when so many servicing shops are putting so much effort into it. Literally every day things are changing for them, and literally they are changing on the fly. That's just not something servicing shops are accustomed to doing. To get all those pieces in place and disseminate that information to the boots on the ground, to the people that need to know it, is difficult. It's going to be a big topic for the next few years."

In the meantime, both companies will continue to provide solutions. "We maintain properties and keep neighborhoods free from blight. We do our best to help servicers keep borrowers in their homes."

Next in News ►