Pets becoming mortgage foreclosure victims
A little known part of the fallout from the record pace of foreclosures of homes has been the impact on pet owners.
“For the last two months, we’ve received an unprecedented number of telephone requests and e-mails from people pleading for us to take their dogs and cats,” said Elise M. Matthes, president of Sarasota in Defense of Animals.
“It is heart-wrenching. Most of those who contact us are losing their homes and moving into rentals, where pets are prohibited. They are severely distraught people because there is no “no-kill” shelter or sanctuary in the county that will take pets,” Matthes said. “Most area shelters are bulging at the seams with excess dogs and cats.”
Real estate experts foresee a total of 1,500 foreclosures by the end of 2007 in the area, if the pace recorded in August and September continues. Four times the number of homes seized by lenders in 2006 were recorded in the first nine months of this year in Sarasota, Charlotte and Manatee counties.
That is a rate of about 30 homes a week.
A housing fair earlier this month at New College of Florida drew more participants than the organizers had anticipated. The focus was on how to avoid foreclosure and how to afford a new home. The Sarasota County Community Housing Trust reported an accelerated flow of inquiries from residents since August.
Most foreclosed homes are sold at individual auctions, or farmed out to real estate brokers to sell on the open market. Many homes purchased during the housing boom by buyers who took out subprime mortgages were lost when they could not meet monthly payments. Subprime mortgages were targeted locally and nationally at working people with weak credit histories.
SDA operates a 10-acre sanctuary in the eastern part of the county. The 18-year-old nonprofit organization provides lifetime care to more than 300 homeless animals, including goats, cows, horses, ducks, geese, swans, 25 dogs and 150 cats.
Matthes said that her organization works directly with county animal services in saving the lives of animals. A significant part of the SDA operation is an intensive adoption program for homeless dogs and cats.
By GERALD A. ROGOVIN