Animals Left Behind, Forgotten

Pet owners are abandoning their animals after being forced to leave their homes.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 5:18 PM

DAYTON, Ohio, March 13, 2008— -- Kathy Bayer, a real estate agent in Dayton, Ohio, always leaves for work in the morning with her briefcase -- and a cat carrier. She makes sure that the trunk of her car is well-stocked with pet food.

They call her the cat lady.

It started 10 years ago, when Bayer took in a kitten she found abandoned in a vacant home. That single act of compassion has now become her mission.

"For an animal lover, you can see it in their eyes when you come in and their spirit is broken, and they'll just cry ... and we try to reassure them," she said.

Her colleagues pitch in, too, calling Bayer when they suspect foreclosure victims have abandoned more than just their homes.

"They are, a lot of times, hiding in the closets or the basement because they are too afraid to come out," Bayer said. "We usually put food down and then watch overnight to see if it's gone."

She could just throw them out, like so many additional victims of this current wave of defaults. But she doesn't. She has found new homes for more than a dozen cats so far, paying their medical bills out of her own pocket.

"We spend thousands of dollars a year rescuing cats ... and that's fine. But now, the market is slow, so there's not as many houses selling for me to get the income to help the cats. so that's a concern as well," Bayer said.

As more families are forced from their homes, the fallout is painfully clear at animal shelters nationwide.

In Dayton, where foreclosures are up 50 percent from last year, every shelter in the city is overrun.

Mark Kumpf, director of Dayton's Montgomery County Animal Resource Center said the pets are suffering as a result of the foreclosure crisis, describing these animals as the "second class of victims in the national economy."

"When we receive large numbers of foreclosure pets, relinquishments, it makes it very difficult to do what we hope to do, which is find good homes for all the animals in our facility."