Keeping Senior Pets With Their Families

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There are so many pets left behind at Chicago’s open admission animal shelters. The two largest, Chicago Animal Care and Control and the Animal Welfare League, are bursting at the seams on a routine basis with too many animals and not enough space.

Although there are heartbreaking stories covering all ages of pets, the real sad cases, the ones that really hit you in the gut, are the senior pets. These sweet souls have given their unconditional love to a family and are now spending their final days with a grim future.

November is Adopt-A-Senior Pet month. While I’m doing a lot of stories about senior pet adoption for my Examiner column, today I’d really like to focus on some of the programs that are available that could keep more senior pets out of shelters and rescues.

Senior pets end up in shelters for many reasons but most frequently because an owner dies, goes into a long-term care facility or may be incapacitated for a time. There are also financial issues, foreclosure and divorce that play into pets losing their homes. There are some programs available to help families and their pets to stay together.

  • Temporary foster care – There are a variety of programs around the country that provide temporary foster care when their owners need extended hospital care or may need to relocate due to foreclosure, other financial issues or divorce. Blessed Bonds, which now operates through A.D.O.P.T. in Naperville, offers foster care for up to two months and also offers other services. In Chicago, there are also month long programs – the Safe Haven Program from PAWS Chicago and SAFE from the Anti-Cruelty Society.
  • Meals on Wheels Pet Program – Many seniors or shut-ins lose their pets because they can’t afford to feed them. Banfield Charitable Trust, a division of PetSmart’s Banfield Veterinary Hospitals, works with Meals on Wheels throughout the country to pet food to those in need.
  • Other Banfield programs – The Trust also offers a “Peace of Mind” Program that enables hospice patients to stay with their pets. The organization also offers Wellness Plans and a HOPE program to provide veterinary care to those in need.
  • Food pantries and pet food pantries – For those in need that are more mobile, more food pantries now offer pet foods and supplies. If those services aren’t available, many pet shelters and rescues and other non-profits offer pet food pantries to those in need.
  • Low-cost clinics – Many seniors and those with low incomes can’t afford a trip to the vet. Look for shelters, rescues and other organizations that offer low-cost spay and neuter services and they most likely also offer low cost vaccination clinics (and quite possibly wellness checks). Some services are offered for free to those in need.

For many seniors or those struggling with health or financial issues, their pet has become their most important family member and they do what they can to stay together as long as possible. It’s very important to set up a trust or legal document that outlines what is to happen to your pet including clearing who will care for your pet in their golden years.

Kathy Mordini is a freelance writer that covers the Chicago animal rescue community and pet trends. She writes daily on Examiner.com. Read her column online and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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