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Arizona nonprofit saves pets left behind foreclosure

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 across the Valley.

“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.

“We do work with some of the homeless shelters because many of the places we
help end up going to shelters and they don’t allow pets there,” Polanski said.

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.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com