As the home mortgage crisis is sending more people into foreclosure, many are choosing to leave belongings behind -- including the family pet.
Animal experts say pets often become the silent victim.
Shelter workers are receiving three times the usual number of calls from owners who want to give up their pets.
"Basically, they have no other option. These are people who do love their pets, they do care for them regularly," MSPCA spokesman Brian Adams said. "To own a cat or a dog can run you $30 to $70 a month additional beside what they're already financially strained with."
The SPCA in California says about 20 percent of animals handed over to them are the result of foreclosures or financial difficulty.
Many people are embarrassed to say why they're giving up their pets. so it's hard to find exact numbers.
But states with the highest foreclosure rates like California and Arizona tend to have the largest numbers of pets taken to a shelter or abandoned.
It's often realtors and home inspectors who make the first visit to a foreclosed home, and find starved or dead animals left behind.
And it's not just dogs and cats.
Reports show birds, turtles, rabbits, and large animals like sheep, llamas and horses are being abandoned, too.
Some families say they have no choice when they move because many rentals do not allow pets.
But animal experts say there is no excuse for cruelty.
"They can bring them in and then we'll find them new homes," Adams said.
"Don't leave them in the apartment. There's people that are willing to help you out," said Courtney Steller, an SPCA employee.
The Humane Society of the United States says planning ahead is key to keeping family pets with the family.
They offer these tips:
- Give yourself enough time to find pet friendly housing if you must move.
- Contact the Humane Society where you're moving for help.
And for everyone on a budget:
- Consider pet insurance to cover expensive vet bills
- And rethink expensive pet products.
Even though toys and accessories are in style, pets want your love and attention more.
Pet advocates say if you're in a foreclosure situation, that doesn't mean the family pet should lose its home and its family.