As Hesperia's homeowners are dealing with foreclosure notices, animals are dealing with their own housing dilemma.

Mortgages in default have increased more than 300 percent compared to a year ago, according to figures released by DataQuick Information Systems in July. Mortgages in default were up 334 percent and 369 percent, respectively, in zip codes 92344 and 92345 last quarter compared to the same period a year ago.  

The Victor Valley Animal Protection League, which takes in animals from the animal control offices of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Victorville, along with the unincorporated portions of San Bernardino County, handled 1006 animals in June 2008, up from 786 animals in June 2007.

Closer to home, Hesperia Animal Control statistics show a sharp rise in pets dropped off at the city's shelter on Santa Fe Avenue East: 51 animals were dropped off by their owners in January, and the rate steadily has risen throughout the year, to 64 in May, before jumping 50 percent to 95 animals dropped off by their owners in June. During the same period, strays picked up by Hesperia Animal Control rose from 387 in January to 671 in June.

"We try and place them all," said Chuck Miller, Animal Control Supervisor of Hesperia Animal Control. His staff has had some residents come in and hand over their animals specifically because the owners have lost their homes due to foreclosure. "It's do-or-die for these animals to be placed.  An animal has to find their own food and shelter.  Life on the street, for the animals, is really hard.  It really breaks your heart."

When an animal is admitted to the shelter they are placed on a four day hold.  Their chances at that point depend on the animal's temperament, health and adoptability.

Hesperia Animal Control also works with several rescue missions, breed-specific adoption services and off-site facilities. Animals are also made available for adoption at PetSmart, and the shelter runs quarterly open houses.

"We want to encourage responsible pet ownership," said city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy. "Low-cost spray and neuter vouchers are given to assist in getting their [adopted] animals altered."  

"When a foreclosure is looming overhead, that is the time to make a concerted effort to find a home for your pet," said Sheila Mockett, president of the board of Victor Valley Animal Protective League. (Mockett is also the advertising account executive for the Hesperia Star.) "Just talk to friends, neighbors, anyone you know.  Put an ad in the paper.

"Be sure you ask enough questions to see if they really want the animal. There are people out there who will take your animal and sell it to the laboratories."

"These animals need to be placed in new loving, stable homes," said Miller.

Sharon Strickland can be reached at 956-7827 or at sharon@hesperiastar.com.