Stepping Up for Abandoned Pets

By isak, July 16, 2009

In these tough economic times when so many family companions are being abandoned — left behind to fend for themselves as their families have moved out, it’s heartwarming to read about people who have stepped up to do something. Lost Our Home Pet Foundation provides foster homes and adoption services for abandoned pets and donates pet food to those who can’t afford to buy their own. In some cases, Lost Our Home pays for pets’ medical needs.

Pets caught in housing crisis find a rescuer
by Scott Craven – June 6, 2009
The Arizona Republic

Christine Keith/The Arizona Republic --  Jodi Polanski comforts Sweetheart, a pit bull found covered with hundreds of ticks after being left for a month in an abandoned house.It’s been easy to see how families have suffered when losing their homes, forced to wedge their lives into small apartments or, worse, homeless shelters.

But loan officer Jodi Polanski was just as saddened by tales of pets left behind, the cats and dogs trying to survive for days, if not weeks, on their own.

As these stories became more frequent, Polanski’s love of animals, as well as a timely seminar about injecting passion into one’s work, spurred her to found the Lost Our Home Pet Foundation, which offers pets and the people who love them a second chance when homes are lost.

The foundation provides foster homes and adoption services for abandoned pets and donates pet food to those who can’t afford to buy their own. In some cases, Lost Our Home pays for pets’ medical needs.

The organization has come much further than Polanski ever dreamed when she and two friends started it nearly a year ago.

Polanski, who’d been involved with various pet-rescue organizations for years, often heard of the tragic stories from the real-estate agents with whom she worked. Families would vanish during the night, escaping homes they could no longer afford and leaving behind those who depended upon them most.

Last summer, during a seminar that discussed combining your passion with your job, the idea struck her – she would provide help when foreclosures forced people to give up their pets.

“It seemed like a natural thing to do,” Polanski said. “Pets being left behind was too big a problem to ignore.”

Shortly after starting the Lost Our Home Pet Foundation with two friends, the group was bombarded by calls, Polanski said. It was a bigger problem than they had imagined.

At first, it was a matter of finding temporary homes for the cats and dogs, their abandonment reported largely by neighbors, as well as real-estate agents unprepared to find pets among other items left behind, such as furniture and food.

“People would take their lamps but not their pets,” Polanski said. “I just couldn’t get my head around that.”

One of the first orders of business was to round up people willing to take pets for weeks or months until permanent homes could be found. They relied on friends and later included social networking, said Tina Eacret, Lost Our Home’s vice president. The group scoured such Web sites as Facebook and Volunteermatch.org, and encouraged board members to blog and use Twitter in seeking those with open hearts and homes.

“We were able to get some great people involved,” Eacret said. “We’re a small group, but we’ve accomplished a lot.”

The foundation has found homes for more than 120 pets, Polanski said. Cases have ranged from a starving cat that was eating drywall to stay alive, to 23 dogs and puppies found at a Gilbert home. All were nursed back to health.

But there also have been times when the group was called too late, with nothing left to do but euthanize the emaciated pets.

“I’ve spent a lot of nights crying,” Polanski said. “I know people are in difficult circumstances, but it’s better to turn in the pet, even if it winds up being euthanized, than letting it slowly starve to death. Nothing deserves that kind of treatment.”

In the past several months, Lost Our Home has launched programs to save pets before they are abandoned. The group offers pet food to those who can’t afford it, and the Furry Friends Foster Program cares for pets until owners are back on their financial feet and can reclaim them. Others may qualify for funds to treat their sick or injured pet.

The programs, for which demand far outstrips supply, have already helped people hold on to their animals despite dire circumstances. In one case, Lost Our Home was able to temporarily house two cats belonging to a man living in his car. He has since found a job (with the pet resort that agreed to temporarily care for his pets) and was reunited.

Those kinds of stories keep Polanski and other volunteers going.

“We get e-mails and postcards from those we’ve helped, and I make sure they’re passed around to everyone,” she said. “To see those smiles, that gives us a lift.”

The foundation is funded by private donations and occasional fundraisers, as well as adoption fees. And when volunteers who are real-estate agents find a pet-friendly condo or townhouse for downsizing pet owners, they donate their commission (roughly $300-$500) to Lost Our Home, Polanski said.

Most of the group’s funds go to vet bills, as much as $5,000 a month. But every penny, Polanski said, is worth it. She plans on continuing Lost Our Home Pet Foundation even after the housing market recovers.

“There will always be pets in need,” she said. “So we’ll keep doing the best we can.”

Lost Our Home Pet Foundation adoptions »

What: Adopt dogs and cats left behind by families who could no longer afford their homes.
When: Noon-4 p.m. Sundays in Tempe; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. every other Sunday (starting this Sunday) in Phoenix.
Where: PetSmart, 1300 E. Rio Salado Parkway (Tempe Marketplace); and PetSmart, 21001 N. Tatum Blvd. (Desert Ridge Marketplace), Phoenix.
Cost: Dogs are $125, puppies $150, cats $75, kittens $95.
Details: 480-782-7727, www.lostourhome.org.
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3 Comments

  1. For those who want to encourage friends and family to adopt, Adopt-a-Pet.com now makes it easy to share profiles, and pictures of pets at shelters over Facebook, and Twitter. Checkout our homepage http://adoptapet.com for more information

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