May 112008
Authors: Shannon Hurley

Animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country are facing increases in their intake of abandoned and surrendered pets as the economy continues to struggle and family and individual pet-owners lose their homes to foreclosures — and Fort Collins is no exception.

These victims of the nation’s economic downturn are known as “foreclosure pets” and are left behind in lost homes or even outside, though many are surrendered to area animal shelters by caring, yet ill-equipped, owners who can no longer afford their care or do not live in pet-friendly housing.

“Those people really have no choice, they’ve lost their home,” said Sarah Swanty of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue, a local no-kill cat shelter that has seen an increase in the volume of calls received from families who are losing their homes.

“People are calling us almost on a daily basis [saying,] ‘I’m losing my home . I have two 8-year-old cats that I’ve had their whole lives and we love them dearly but we can’t find anywhere to live that will let us have them,'” Swanty said.

Although the Larimer Humane Society has not kept specific record of the number of pets taken in due to foreclosures, moving has always been one of the top reasons cited by owners when relinquishing their pets.

“It’s not an uncommon reason for us to hear from a family,” said Cary Rentolla of the Larimer Humane Society, though she notes that the reasons for moving have changed and many are a result of the economy.

The burden of these animals’ care and future outlook moves from their financially-strapped owners to nonprofit animal rescues such as the Larimer Humane Society or Fort Collins Cat Rescue, which has limited resources and an expanding pet population to deal with.

Finding homes for these pets is difficult for shelters when prospective adopters are on tight budgets and may not have the financial standing to guarantee a lifetime of shelter, food and care for a dog or cat. It’s a problem Swanty believes only worsened when the older age of many foreclosure pets is taken into account.

Animals over the age of two have always taken longer to adopt. Potential pet-owners tend to favor cute and cuddly puppies and kittens and ignore mature dogs and cats.

“It’s devastating when people with 13-year-old pets call and want to get rid of them because the fact of the matter is, nobody wants to adopt a 13-year-old cat,” Swanty said.

Which is a problem for her no-kill, limited capacity shelter, Swanty said, especially in the past two months. March and April brought the shelter its lowest number of adoptions, donations and surgeries in months, she said.

Swanty worries the Fort Collins Cat Rescue will not make it to its second birthday on June 1. She has turned to her shelter’s Web site in an effort to solicit donations from supportive pet-lovers, citing monthly donations as a key source for the facility’s continued survival.

“Until we have the funding that allows us to do more, we have to turn away a lot of people,” Swanty said. “It’s hard . it’s just a horrible situation.”

Staff writer Shannon Hurley can be reached at

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