PHOENIX - A northeast Phoenix nonprofit hopes to significantly reduce the number of pets abandoned in foreclosed homes.
The Lost Our Home Foundation recently opened its first shelter. The nonprofit has relied on its foster parents to house pets since its founding in 2008. The organization has about 30 dogs and cats in the shelter and more than 200 in foster homes in the Phoenix area.
"This month, June, is our four-year anniversary, so we've been doing all of this work without having a shelter, and we have rescued over 2,000 without having a facility," said Jodi Polanski, the foundation's executive director.
Samantha Mazza, a Realtor with Solutions Real Estate in Gold Canyon, volunteers with Lost Our Home and has referred other real-estate agents to the organization.
Abandoned pets "have always been a problem, but then it did start to get out of control, even with the real-estate market recovering," she said. "There still seems to be an overflow of animals."
Lost Our Home does more than pick up dogs and cats left behind. The nonprofit allows owners to temporarily or permanently surrender their pets to the shelter.
Lost Our Home has a food bank for pets and works with real-estate agents and mortgage companies that refer families to the nonprofit.
The group also provides temporary care for people between homes.
The no-kill organization will always be foster-based because of its belief that animals need one-on-one attention and daily care that is difficult to provide in large shelters.
About one-third of the pets are dogs. Polanski said one reason the numbers of cats is higher is because it is breeding season for them.
"We're seeing more and more smaller dogs being left behind, too," she said.
"Typically Chihuahuas, but we've had little fluffy white dogs, too. But the smaller and more fluffy the dog, the less likely they are to be left behind."
Cats and dogs are often left in backyards or locked inside of foreclosed homes, but cats are more often left outside to roam neighborhoods, Polanski said.
"A cat that's been domesticated doesn't know how to search for food or how to watch out for cars, coyotes, dogs and poison," she said.
Polanski said some people leave pets behind because they don't know there are options. The few shelters they've called may charge a fee to surrender their animals.
"They've called friends and they can't help and they don't know what to do," Polanski said.
But others don't value the lives of animals.
"People have gone as far as taking out the copper in the house but not find a place for their pet," he said. "Some people don't think of pets as being beautiful living things."
Polanski, a longtime pet lover, heard about the problem of abandoned pets while working as a mortgage-loan officer. Her responsibilities at Lost Our Home became so time consuming that she became its full-time head about two years ago. The group has three employees.
"We're really looking for a lot of volunteers right now, and donations are more imperative now. And we need more fosters because that helps us rescue more," Polanski said.
jobless can apply for help
Save Our Home AZ counselors will be available for hourly appointments Wednesday and Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hotel Tucson City Center InnSuites, 475 N. Granada Ave.
Under Save Our Home AZ, unemployed homeowners can apply for temporary payment assistance for up to two years while they seek work.
Underemployed homeowners can apply for a loan- principal reduction of up to $50,000 with a matching contribution from a participating lender that could reduce mortgage payments to 31 percent of the homeowner's monthly income.
Participants must meet certain requirements, including eligible hardship, property type, loan balance, income level and other conditions.
Arizona Daily Star