Young pets adopted more than underrated, older counterparts

Sarah Fazio, Staff Reporter

Receiving a brand-new, fluffy puppy or kitten is a dream many people have, but few realize the advantages of having a older pet.

My family and I welcomed our current dog, Freddy, into the family at age 11, and although she has several issues including anxiety, which causes her whole body to shake, she lives up to her species’ reputation: everyone’s best friend. She makes sure she is with someone at all times (even in the bathroom), enjoys resting her chin on your lap to get your attention, and is known to lovingly invade personal space in the back seat during the soccer carpool.

As dogs and cats enter their senior years, they generally become more calm and require less exercise. This means they are generally easier to manage than young pets, which are often compared to newborn babies. In addition, many senior dogs in shelters are already house-trained because they may have lived with a previous family. However, starting at around age six or seven, the future for dogs and cats in shelters becomes bleak.

“Senior dog adoption rate is just 25%, while younger dogs in this sample are at a 60% adoption rate,” said Emily Weiss, Vice President of Equine Welfare of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Potential adopters’ concerns about these animals include health issues, expensive veterinary bills, and the reality that they will pass away sooner than a younger pet. Across the country, many new shelters devoted to senior pets, like nearby Muttville in San Francisco, have opened, but the problem is still prevalent.

“Unfortunately, the live release rate for seniors is lower than for other dogs at 56.5%, while younger dogs combined LRR in this sample is 75.6%,” Weiss said.

Live release rate is the rate at which animals move to another shelter or get adopted. If they are not adopted or transferred to another shelter, they will be euthanized, or given a painless death, because most shelters just don’t have enough space for all the animals they take in.

The percentage of animals that return to their original owners after having been lost, or the “Return to Owner” rate paints a picture that attests to older pets’ loyalty.
“Return to Owner rate for seniors is significantly higher (49% vs. 23% for other canines),” Weiss said.

Perhaps owners go looking for their older dogs more often because their bond grows especially strong as the years go on. The gentle affection and dedication to their owners that build this bond are what make senior pets so great.

While older pets may not be as picture-perfect as young ones or have their unbounding energy, they deserve to have a loving family. They should not have to spend their final days alone on the cold floor of a shelter.