Animal welfare groups around the world have been noticing a new victim to the housing downturn and foreclosure crisis: pets. The lucky ones with responsible owners are turned in to local shelters. The most unfortunate dogs and cats are left imprisoned in locked homes with no food or water. They face a slow, tortuous death by starvation or dehydration.

The Human Society of the United States started noticing the problem in January. The same problem has turned up in England, the Daily Mail reports. A lack of money or landlord permission have both long been among the top reasons pets are turned into shelters.

Leaving a pet in the home, however, is a relatively new, shameful trend. The people losing the home leave a frantic animal inside as a kind of sick revenge on the company that foreclosed on them. In Cleveland the local NBC station reported that tenants leave nauseating conditions. Animal Protection League Director Director Sharon Harvey told WKYC, "animals are living in horrific conditions, rooms and areas filled with feces and urine. Sometimes they have to go in with masks because the smell is so terrible."

Someone facing foreclosure with no pet-friendly housing or relatives to turn to may get some help from local shelters or rescue groups. If you want to keep the animal, they may be able to work with you. If you don't they'll give your dog or cat the best shot at a new life. While the Humane Society doesn't give out grants to individuals, it just set up a program for local animal groups to get extra funding to help with the pet-foreclosure crisis.

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