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Foreclosures and Aging Population Spell Trouble for IL Pets

October 17, 2011

CHICAGO - It's tough to find homes for pets in Illinois these days. When 79-year-old Evanston resident Allen Wilbourn's longtime companion cat "Joffrey" died a year ago, Wilbourn became lethargic. Although he's been a lifelong cat owner, Wilbourn wouldn't adopt another one because he has been in and out of hospitals and didn't feel it would be fair to the animal.

Three weeks ago, his problem was solved when his social worker connected him with Touched by an Animal, an organization that allowed him to adopt two cats and promises to take the cats in whenever he becomes ill. Now, Wilbourn says, his condo feels like a home again, with "Christopher" and "George" following him all over the place.

"They're my only companions and I love having cats living with me."

The Chicago organization was founded 28 years ago by a Catholic nun who had been helping older neighbors and discovered that this also involved helping their pets. Founder Marijon Binder has expanded the group's mission in the last two years to include the growing number of pets left homeless by foreclosures. Touched by an Animal never euthanizes animals, even after their owners die or move on.

Binder says the bad economy has forced her organization to expand its mission.

"These last few years it's not just the elderly; it's people who call and beg me to take care of their animals because they're in foreclosure."

No matter what the circumstances, Binder assures pet owners that their animals will be safe.

"We give them that peace of mind that, if and when something happens to them, we will not only take the cat back but we will take it to visit them wherever they are. And if they die the cat will live out its natural life with us."

Binder says if she hadn't started helping as a young nun with the pet of a neighbor who had become blind from diabetes, she may never have learned to love animals so much.

"That's how it all started. I had really no interest at all in the cats or the dogs; I had interest in the elderly people."

Currently Binder has 85 cats, a third of them unavailable for adoption because they're waiting for their owners to come home from the hospital or bounce back financially. Binder also takes in dogs, but volunteers keep them at their own homes.

Touched by an Animal, which is licensed, will hold its annual fundraiser November 20, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Binder says, to give thanks for the animals and people who have touched their lives.

Information is at www.touchedbyananimal.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL