Being forced to put her house on the market by the real estate meltdown
was stressful enough for Kathryn Ecdao. Leaving
Roxy and Bear behind made matters much worse.
The 4-year-old Labrador-German shepherd mixes weren't welcome at the rental Ecdao moved into a few miles away. So she makes daily trips to her now-empty former home in Anaheim Hills to care for the dogs and is desperately trying to find someone to adopt them before the place is sold.
We can keep them there as long as the house is
in limbo," said Ecdao, who can't afford to board
Roxy and Bear. "But that's not fair to the dogs.
They're not getting the attention that they
Actually, Roxy and Bear are among the luckier four-legged victims of the housing crisis. As more and more Californians are turned out of their homes by foreclosures or forced sales, family pets -- especially dogs and cats -- are being left behind to fend for themselves.
"These people don't know what's going to happen to them, and they figure someone will take care of the cat," said Jacky deHaviland, who works with a Los Angeles-area group called Muttshack Animal Rescue. "They say 'I can't even deal with this. How can I deal with that?' "
For DiAnna Pfaff-Martin of Newport Beach, founder of the Animal Network of Orange County, the wake-up call came last week when she got five new adoption cases -- four dogs and a cat -- because their owners had lost their homes.
"This is the first time I've had this kind of problem since I started doing this in 1996," Pfaff-Martin said.
As the housing crunch worsens -- foreclosures in California are at record levels -- so will the problem of homeless pets, she said. "I think this is just the tip of the iceberg."
Real estate pros and other animal welfare organizations are reporting similar trends.
"I'm getting calls from desperate people who are losing their homes, asking us to rescue their cat," said Fran Moore of Irvine, a co-founder of the Orange County Animal Rescue Coalition, which works with the public shelter in Corona, an area hit hard by foreclosures.
Leo Nordine, a Hermosa Beach broker who specializes in selling repossessed homes, said he finds abandoned dogs at least once a month these days. Sometimes they're chained in a yard, sometimes locked in the house. They're often emaciated, if they're alive at all.
Nordine first tries to get neighbors to take in an abandoned dog. If that fails, he calls a public shelter or a private group to pick up the animal. (Going to the county pound is often a death sentence, especially for large dogs, which are difficult to place. In Orange County, for example, 40% of the almost 28,000 dogs and cats impounded by the county last year were destroyed.)
In Corona, shelter manager Darryl Heppner has seen a 16% jump in the number of animals brought in during the last six months.