Owners unable to keep pets turn for help

Carla Waller believes in promises. She was married for 37 years, held one job for 35 and never adopted a pet she didn’t keep for life. Until now.

Mrs. Waller and her husband, Dennis, moved to Las Vegas in 2006 and put $100,000 down on a $330,000 home. They adopted Jake, a 3-year-old, lean, shy cocker spaniel. They both sold furniture on commission and thought they were set for retirement and beyond.

Mr. Waller received a diagnosis of terminal cancer in 2008 and died in 2009. Mrs. Waller stayed home to care for him, but returned to work to make ends meet. She adopted Marilyn Monroe, a schnauzer-collie, to keep Jake company. A friend added Jewels the cat to the mix.

The recession stripped her home of a third of its value. Then health problems left her unable to work.

Foreclosure is just around the corner, said Mrs. Waller, 67. “I know I’m a couple of months out. I can’t do it anymore. I don’t have the income,” she said. “I’m done. There is nothing I can do now.”

The hardest call she had to make was to Foreclosed Upon Pets Inc. (FUPI) to arrange for homes for Jake, Marilyn and Jewels so she can move in with relatives.

“I am very depressed about it and very concerned about where they go because I took them for life,” she said.

Mrs. Waller’s story is all too familiar to Everett Croxson, who founded Las Vegas-based FUPI (rhymes with puppy) in 2008.

Mr. Croxson, 59, a retired business consultant, was guided by hometown headlines.

• Nevada had the worst foreclosure rate nationally for 62 months until March.

• Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.6 percent.

• The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas runs the highest-volume single-facility shelter in the country. It takes in close to 50,000 animals a year. Nearly two-thirds have to be euthanized.

In 2009, Mr. Croxson bought a five-bedroom home to use as a transition house for the pets. FUPI placed 348 pets that year. In 2010, it was nearly 500; in 2011, 570; and this year it will be more than 600, Mr. Croxson said.

FUPI also works with the unemployed and those too ill or old to handle their pets, but about 30 percent of their pets are victims of foreclosures, Mr. Croxson said.

In Arizona, which bumped Nevada from the top of the foreclosure rankings in March, the Lost Our Home Pet Foundation in Phoenix does similar work. Founded in 2008, it also relies primarily on fosters, although it did open a small shelter in April.

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