Are senior dogs adopted from shelters?

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Senior dogs are adopted from shelters, but not in the numbers matching puppies or young adult dogs. One can only guess at the reasons—perhaps fear of losing a pet too soon, or maybe the undeniable appeal of a puppy. Whatever the thought, figures show that the majority of pets adopted from shelters are three years old or younger. It’s difficult to determine how many senior pets are adopted from shelters, as many are taken in by rescue groups instead of private individuals.

An additional impediment to senior pet adoption is that, due to space considerations, most shelters can only hold pets for a very short amount of time. Depending on the state, laws typically mandates a period of a week or less. After that, it’s the decision of the shelter as to how long an animal can be kept.

Senior dogs, who are already adopted in lower numbers, have even less of a chance given this short timeframe. Add to that the fact that in many states, a pet brought in by its “owner” can be put to sleep sooner than that (as obviously they are not lost, and no one is going to be looking for them) senior dogs’ adoption figures are especially grim. Many senior pets brought in are identified as “owner surrenders,” though the owner may be a family member of a senior citizen no longer able to care for their pet.

Many people are unaware of these rules, and assume that a pet they bring to the shelter will be adopted. Particularly in the case of senior dogs, this is rarely true.

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