It hasn't always been the case that such incidents were reported to animal shelters.
The disconnect between corporate entities and shelters has been exacerbated by California laws requiring that inspected property, including animals, be left untouched. A new law that went into effect last month addresses the problem. Assembly Bill 2949 requires anyone who encounters an abandoned animal in a property that has been vacated through lease termination or foreclosure to immediately contact a local animal control agency.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) issued a statement on foreclosure animals Jan. 29, offering the following advice to those facing foreclosure or eviction: Check with friends, family and neighbors to see if someone can provide temporary foster care for your pet until you get back on your feet. Make sure pets are allowed and get permission in writing if you are moving into a rental property. Contact your local shelter, humane society, or rescue group in advance of moving, and provide your animal's records to help it get placed in an appropriate home.
To love and lose a home is a hard thing, but to love and lose a home and a furry family member is worse, especially when people don't know where their pet will end up. "People don't know what to do," said Boucher, citing an example of a Bay Area woman who kept her dog in the backyard of her foreclosed home long after she had moved, and another of a family that asked the subsequent owners of their foreclosed home to care for their dog.
"We're perceived as a no-kill city, but that's just not true," said Boucher, who rescues pit pulls, the most frequently euthanized of all dogs. Like many rescue agents, Boucher disagrees with the standards set by the temperament tests that determine whether a dog is suitable for adoption, arguing that many perfect dogs would not pass the test.
Slugocki also takes issue with temperament tests. "Let's say I'm a dog that hasn't eaten for weeks and I get picked up and taken to a shelter and they put down a bowl of food as part of the temperament test. Take it away and see what I'll do."
"This is a huge disaster, a quiet emergency," Boucher said. "I hope people can open their minds to fostering an animal."
Despite the spike in economy-related homeless animals, Katz says SFACC is still under control, at least for the time being. "We have not seen an increase in euthanasia and we hope not to." About 84 percent of animals that end up at the SF shelter are saved, compared to the depressing national average of 30 percent.
"We do everything we can to save animals' lives. We reach out to every rescue we know of," Katz said.
But with shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries swamped with a growing wave of owner-surrendered pets, caring for the displaced animals is bound to get tougher, particularly if foreclosure crisis gets worse, as many economists predict. And with budget cuts in the offing in the city, SFACC staff fear cutbacks could drive up euthanasia rates.
Slugocki says his sanctuary has something other shelters don't: space. He has 283 redwood-adorned majestic acres of it, and he's willing to take every dog, no matter how many have failed the temperament tests that would guarantee a swift lethal injection at the pound.
"I can take dogs that don't stand a chance. I can take them crippled, heart worm positive, deaf, blind, you name it," Slugocki said. Half of the 75 dogs at Milo are unadoptable and will live peacefully among the redwoods for the rest of their days. He says he can take up to 1,000 dogs but he's missing one thing: sufficient staff to build enough dog pens and feed and care for a small city of dogs every day.
"I desperately need volunteers," Slugocki said.