Animals often forgotten as victims of foreclosure

Like many other South Floridians, Madeleine J. Calder was crushed when she lost her 5-acre ranch in Palm Beach County to foreclosure. But she hadn’t counted on also losing her most prized possessions: six ostriches, named Rhett Butler, Miss Scarlett, Bob, Gallagher Bird, Ken Doll and Little Bit.

Calder last saw the small herd of ostriches featured in national and local stories on ostrich breeding when she moved out of her Blue Heaven Ostrich Ranch in Loxahatchee. She left the ostriches, some of which she had nurtured for 21 years, with plans to find a new place for them to stay.

But before she could claim them, Calder says, they disappeared — and no one will tell her where they are.

She’s been fighting to get them back ever since filing several lawsuits, the latest in September. “We’ve been together through everything, those birds and me,” Calder said.

The ongoing foreclosure crisis has forced some homeowners to leave pets and livestock behind. Dogs are the most common, but horses, cattle, pigs, goats, rabbits, turtles and even fish have been left as well. Broward and Palm Beach County deputies serving eviction notices also have reported encountering the more exotic Chinchillas, llamas, emus and snakes.

“You never know what you’re going to walk into,” said Capt. David Walesky, spokesman for Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control. He once found 56 animals — including a box turtle — during an eviction.

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