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Vulnerable victims of foreclosure

Susan Wallace, founder of a local dog rescue group, is witnessing a surprising aspect of the slow economy: People abandoning pets because they’ve lost their jobs or homes – or simply because they can’t feed an extra mouth.

Wallace established Scooter’s Pals in May to rescue dogs about to be euthanized in shelters across California. She gets phone calls every other day from someone “wanting to get rid of a dog,” she said.

“As the economy worsens and foreclosures continue, there are more people giving up their dogs than there are people looking to adopt one,” Wallace said. “People give up their pets because they lose their homes or move elsewhere to find employment.”



More than 121,000 homes went into foreclosure in California in the second quarter of 2008, an increase of 125 percent over the number of foreclosures during the same period last year, according to DataQuick, a San Diego real estate tracking firm.

Nearly 80 percent of those homeowners are expected to lose their homes, DataQuick estimates.




Earlier this week, Wallace rescued two 9-month-old dogs – a pit bull terrior and a mixed breed – about to be euthanized from the Merced County animal shelter.

Both were abandoned by their humans in one of the areas worst-hit by the real estate decline. In May, one of every 82 homes in Merced County was in foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, another company gathering real estate statistics.

Wallace herself 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.”

Wallace started her dog rescue 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.

But even as Wallace lost everything and barely clung to her life, her son took care of the other two dogs who survived the tragedy.

“It would have never occurred to him to find homes for my dogs,” she said.

A life-changing experience

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. The doctors weren’t even sure if I’d be ever able to speak. He cut through my larynx, voice box and trachea. He almost decapitated me.”

Today Wallace works relentlessly 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.

Wallace is now trying to sell her story of survival to a movie producer and use the proceeds to build a shelter for rescued dogs, she said.

“At some level, the trauma was a blessing, because now I’m almost never unclear about what’s important. What a gift that is!”

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail ssen@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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