Should I send my dad’s dog to a shelter?
“Bailey barks every night, and all the neighbors complain. My dad is over 70 years old, and even though he loves Bailey very much, he just broke his leg, so he won’t be able to care for the dog.”
This question may seem ridiculous to dedicated animal-lovers (how could anyone even think this?). However, not all folks want (or can) take on the responsibility of someone else’s pet.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our aging parents or grandparents, this scenario may one day present itself.
Let’s explore this topic further.
Considerations of Relinquishing a Pet
Sending a beloved pet to a shelter is a serious decision with many consequences.
If the animal is also getting on in years, it will make it harder to find it a home. High-kill shelters most often won’t spend a lot of time or resources looking for one, which increases the odds that the dog would be euthanized.
The type of animal and its personality will also play a role in finding a suitable family. It’s not unusual that some senior’s pets can be “touchy” or “set in their ways.” These personality quirks all play against the pet in a shelter situation.
Animals suffer a great deal of stress when separated from the only home they’ve known. They may go through anxiety, depression, listlessness, or stop eating.
Alternatives to the Shelter
When it comes to re-homing a senior’s pet, the shelter should be the last resort.
So what are the alternatives?
- Is there someone else in the family that can take the animal? If not look to trusted outside sources like neighbors, coworkers, or friends. Ask these people if they know anyone that is looking for a furry companion.
- A foster pet parent is also a viable idea. Many people love to have temporary custody of an animal and are willing to help out as long as the monetary expenses are being reimbursed.
Of course, the best scenario is usually leaving the pet right where it is. As with our example, if a senior has a temporary setback (such as a broken bone), they will eventually be able to take back the responsibility of the dog. Re-homing Bailey would most likely create an upsetting situation for the father. One that may not be easily rectified.
Having someone step in to help the father walk and care for Bailey until he can do so may not be as tricky as ripping his beloved fur baby away forever.
In fact, there have been studies done that show the many benefits pets have for the elderly.
Benefits of Pets and the Elderly
Took this photo of Ellen and Willy last summer for the #ryerescues column in my local paper @theryerecord Just saw them this week and Willy is 16.5 and hanging strong ! Definitely recommend getting a photo shoot with your #seniorpets – you will cherish the photos and be happy you did ! #seniorpetsofig #seniordog #adoptdontshop #petportrait #petphotography #petphotographer #dogsofinstagram
Society tends to disregard those who are “past their prime” (this flaw is strictly human-bias). Luckily, animals don’t think this way (they love unconditionally).
For the older adult, a dedicated pet can have a ton of benefits on their general health and well being.
- Pets can reduce stress – this, in turn, can lower blood pressure, which in turn can prevent many hypertension-related illnesses.
- Pets increase socialization – dogs need to be walked giving the senior a reason to go outside. Animals are also great topics of conversation.
- Pets can stimulate the mind – having a new animal may renew the person’s interest in reading and researching to find out more about the particular breed or care of the animal.
- Pets allow us to live in the here-and-now – tomorrow can be very scary for some, having a live-in-the-moment creature is the best way to be free.
- Pets reduce loneliness – animals are the perfect companion, they are always willing to be there and to listen, with very few demands in return.
Check out this video for more of the amazing benefits of pets for the elderly.
Picking the Right Pet for a Senior
If you feel the senior in your life may benefit from an animal companion, picking the right pet for the right person is vital. Before you plop a furry companion into your senior’s life, answer these questions.
- Is the person set in their ways? A pet may not be the right choice.
- Have they had a pet before? No? This may not be the time to start.
- Does the senior have a disability? If this causes mobility issues, a cat may be a better choice over a dog.
- Is the pet the right age? Puppies and kittens can be a handful, so an older animal may be the wiser choice. Young animals also have a higher lifespan, so you could find yourself in our opening scenario. Are you prepared to take on the animal in the future?
- Is the animal healthy? You don’t want to burden your senior with the stress and expense of a sick animal.
- Can the person financially afford the pet?
Need more tips on finding the right pet? Check out our article on Choosing the Best Dog Breeds for the Elderly!
Pets and the Elderly
No one wants to find themselves in our opening scenario; unfortunately, it could happen. If it does, try to use the shelter as your last resort. Remember the benefits a pet has for the senior and work towards keeping the animal in its rightful home.
Do you know a senior that has a pet or may benefit from one? Let us know how it has worked out for them in the comment’s section.