Animal shelters in the summertime may be overrun with puppies and kittens. But there is little worry that these bundles of fluffiness and cuteness will find their forever homes. The fact is the youngest pets are irresistible to many adults and children.
Usually overlooked are the older dogs and cats. This is a shame because potentially they adapt more easily to a new home and present fewer behavioral problems with training. From peeing on the carpet to climbing expensive silk curtains, puppies and kittens can create havoc without supervision.
“We get a lot returns of puppies because they messed in the house or chewed something,” said Lisa Mendeim, public education coordinator of Broward County Animal Care in Fort Lauderdale. “People need to be realistic with young animals, there are going to be accidents. A lot of people a have no time for training. Senior pets are great companions and very appreciative.”
At what age is a dog or cat considered a senior? According to Dr. Lisa Feinstein, formerly of the Plantation Animal Hospital, it is eight years old. Though an animal’s breed is also a factor in how long it will live. “Little dogs, like Yorkshires or Maltese, live longer than Great Danes and Rottweilers,” Feinstein said. “Just as with people, senior pets present health challenges. You may or may not want to invest in a life-saving surgery. It’s a quality of life issues for senior pets.”
“All senior pets need is love,” said Cherie Wachter, public relations and marketing person with the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale. She sees older pets given up for many reasons, some include moving to a no-pets apartment or allergies.
Wachter has fostered senior pets from the shelter, including a Yorkshire terrier whose owner had passed away. She kept the dog for a year. “She was just so sweet,” Wachter said. “She loved to give kisses and be petted. With older pets, you know their personalities. There aren’t a lot of surprises in store.”
Wachter recommends that adopters of older pets pay attention to them. “Be observant of their habits in terms of eating or elimination in case there is a sign of trouble,” she said.
Jennifer Hummel is dedicated to the cause of senior canines through her organization vintagepaws.org in Sarasota. It is a senior dog sanctuary that houses older dogs and finds foster and forever homes for them. The genesis of the organization was personal. “My mother passed away when I was 16,” Hummel said. “She dropped off our three senior dogs at the shelter.”
Hummel gets older dogs from owner surrenders and no-kill shelters in Florida. “A lot of them come to be neglected, so we look at their dental and skin problems and fix them up,” she said.
Having helped hundreds of dogs so far, Hummel observed, “Senior dogs are more mellow. They just want to hang out with you and take a slow walk. Some still have energy, but they are good easy pets.”