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Shelter from the storm

Shelters overwhelmed with pets from foreclosed homes

Posted: February 12, 2009 12:34 a.m.
Updated: February 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Indy, a Border Collie, waits to be adopted at New Leash on Life Animal Shelter, Wednesday. Some animals are up for adoption a second time.

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A staggering increase in foreclosures is leaving many people with no choice but to leave their homes - and pets - behind. And rescues around the Santa Clarita Valley are struggling to accommodate the stream of new arrivals.

"We take in so many from foreclosed homes, it's really hard to keep track," said Karen Stepp, manager of the Center for Animal Care and Control on Charlie Canyon Road in Castaic.

The shelter has taken in cats and dogs for more than 30 years and administrators say they are overwhelmed.

"We are having a hard time placing them," said Stepp.

And rescuers who take in abandoned animals from the local shelters are forced to turn down prospective new arrivals due to lack of space.

"We want to help new arrivals but are stretched as it is," said Jennifer Davenport, director of operations at New Leash on Life animal rescue in Placerita Canyon.

"We just don't have the resources right now," she said. "With finances being so bad, fewer donations are received and we can't keep up."

The overload is getting worse.

In 2008, Santa Clarita Valley foreclosures jumped 57 percent compared to the previous year.

"We are in a huge crisis," said Briana Fugitt, a staff member at New Leash on Life. "We still have the arrivals that came in from foreclosed homes two or three years ago and are having to turn away new ones," Fugitt said.

In 2008, New Leash welcomed back a large portion of previously adopted animals whose new owners went into foreclosure. More than a quarter of new arrivals to the rescue are in for the second time around.

"Just yesterday, a dog we placed a few years ago came back to us," Fugitt said. A 9-year-old Rotweiler named Sugar is very confused by where her home is now.

Davenport and staff currently operate at more than half of the facility's capacity, but continue to post new animals in need to their Web site to promote adoption.

The rescue was able to place quite a few abandoned animals in new homes, with a record-breaking amount for last month.

"But sadly, we still don't have the room for more," Fugitt said.

Shelters and rescues emphasize the importance of pet owners considering private adoptions by community and family members.

"There are options," said Rhonda Hallden of Husky Haven of L.A., in response to finding the animals new homes. "Many people don't think about what else they can do."

Hallden, located in Palmdale after more than 20 years as a resident of the Santa Clarita Valley, celebrates her 30th anniversary of her rescue, which saves huskies from abandonment and euthanasia. "There are a lot of people out there that are willing to care for a pet in need," Hallden said. "To open your home, you have to open your heart."

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