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Another Consequence of Economic Crises: The Loss of our Four-Legged Family Members

posted by Debb Thorne

In my free-time, I frequently cruise the sites of horse rescues and adoption facilities. I certainly don't need another large, four-legged, hairy family member, but, like visiting the local ice cream shop, it's fun to look. Anyway, I've come across several comments describing some of the less-recognized effects of the economic downturn and the increase in home foreclosures. Namely, it appears that as people lose their homes and their jobs, they are increasingly forced to leave their horses at rescues or other shelters. (Even more disturbing, because the market is currently flooded with horses and they are so expensive to maintain, many end up slaughtered rather than at rescues and shelters.) And back in December, The Columbus Dispatch ran a piece on families who had lost their homes in foreclosure and had to leave their dogs at the Franklin County Dog Shelter. The director of the shelter, Lisa Wahoff, said: "There's even a national term for it: 'foreclosure dogs.' We started seeing it more about 18 months ago, people writing 'foreclosure' or 'financial reasons' on their surrender forms."

Losing one's home is painful for many reasons--loss of security, loss of self, loss of a family space, loss of the American dream. But I would expect that the loss is especially acute when the family has to part with their pet, because, as most pet-owners will tell you, they may have four legs, but they are still members of our families. Certainly this isn't as consequential as homelessness, but my guess is that it doesn't make it any less painful when Mom or Dad has to leave their child's horse or the family dog at the shelter. It's just another example of the range of the fallout from our current economic situation in this country.


The Wall Street Journal had a lengthy feature about the strain on horse rescue in Florida caused by the plummeting real estate market there. http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB119967115694171373.html

From the WSJ article:

"Ms. Silver scoffs at the idea that amateur breeders like Ms. Perea should get government help. "A horse is a luxury item," she says, bristling. "You have no business owning them if you can't pay for them. Are we going to give tax breaks to yacht owners, too?""

You can deduct your yacht payment on the Means Test, but not pet care.

First, that someone would claim that owning a horse is a luxury illustrates an urban-bias. Those of us who were raised rural, and particularly out west, know full well that horses are not necessarily a luxury. Land is relatively inexpensive (if California is excluded!) and, as such, one does not need to board one's horse. Instead, they are kept in the back pasture--not much different than the family hound dog. Second, to equate a horse with a yacht is cold-hearted and utterly dismisses the human-animal relationship. (My mare is no more a machine than am I.) And that relationship was the point of my post--when families have to get rid of their pets, it is painful. Thus, if we want to understand the emotional strain that families experience when they lose their homes, we need to consider the loss of their pets.

We have first-hand witnessed what happens when pets are left behind in a foreclosure situation. Our neighbour across the street had 8 German shepards, all of whom had to be euthanized BUT ONLY AFTER HE LEFT THE DOGS UNATTENDED AND THEY DESTROYED THE HOUSE WITH EXCREMENT. The house lost almost 50% of its previous sale value because of the destruction caused by the dogs as well as other exit vandalism. The problems of pet surrender are complicated by rental rules excluding certain pets and/or the number of pets allowed in a rental unit.

This has been happening for years. In attempting to work out fair and reasonable debt solutions on behalf of consumers I have been told by their creditors that they must get rid of their pets and horses.

As long as creditors get to call almost all the shots when people get into debt and want to find ways to get out of debt and it is about the profit over the people, this will sadly continue to happen.

And don't forget the horses, cats and dogs that have been put to death when they were ill because their owners could not afford to pay for the treatment they needed because they had bills to pay.

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