The prolonged economic slump is causing hardships for pets, not just people.
Many animals are winding up in local animal shelters, because their owners have lost their home, their job or just can’t afford to care for them anymore, according to animal rescue groups.
“As the economy worsens and foreclosures continue, there are more people giving up their dogs than people who want to adopt one,” said Susan Wallace, founder of Scooter’s Pals, a newly formed rescue group.
Wallace said she gets phone calls every other day from someone “wanting to get rid of a dog,” often for economic reasons.
So far, Wallace’s group has found homes for at least 50 animals and microchipped about 40 more – a practice that helps find lost dogs using chip technology.
In July she rescued two 9-month-old dogs, a pit bull terrier and a mixed breed, about to be euthanized from the Merced County animal shelter.
Both were abandoned by their owners in one of the areas hit hardest by the real estate decline. In May, one of every 82 homes in Merced County was in foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac.
More than 121,000 homes fell into foreclosure in California for the three months ending in June, up 125 percent from the same period a year ago, according to DataQuick. Most of those homeowners are expected to lose their homes, the firm that gathers real estate estimates.
Groups such as Scooter’s Pals are helping, but it’s a challenge to find homes for so many abandoned pets.
Wallace started her group in the memory of her pet Shih Tzu, Scooter, who was killed three years ago by a man high on methamphetamine who slashed Wallace’s throat and set her Nevada City house on fire.
As Wallace barely clung to her life, her son took care of her other two dogs who survived the tragedy.
“It would have never occurred to him to find homes for my dogs,” she said.
After miraculously surviving the attack, Wallace said she “chose to live in a way that made a significant difference to something besides myself.”
“I didn’t want to live in that fear or pain anymore,” she said. “I’m grateful I can walk, run and exercise again.”
Wallace works with eight volunteers to save abandoned canines across the state. Before they’re put up for adoption, the dogs go through a medical examination and are vaccinated, spayed and neutered, Wallace said.
She has adopted five rescued dogs, including a 15-year-old Shih Tzu poodle, a 16-year-old deaf beagle and a 17-year-old Australian terrier.
“How do you give up an animal who’s helpless?” Wallace said. “We, as humans, domesticate them, and when life issues arise, we give them up. I don’t understand it.”
People wanting to adopt animals get a visit from a Scooter’s Pals volunteer.
“Sometimes we find that they’re sweet,” Wallace said. “They mean well, but they don’t have the means to feed their kids, let alone an animal.”
City Editor Trina Kleist contributed to this report. To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4229.
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