According to the ASPCA, 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters in the US every year. Shelter and rescue resources are stretched thin as they try to find homes for these pets, and sadly, only 50%, on average, will be adopted – and we know the sad end to the story for many of the other 50%.
In 2009, Petfinder.com, an online searchable database that partners with shelters and rescues to help connect homeless pets with adopters, founded “Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week” (the third week in September) to highlight the struggle of finding homes for pets who, statistically, have a harder time finding a home. In a recent survey, Petfinder revealed that 95% of responding rescues have pets that they define as being “hard to adopt.” While an average pet spends about 12 weeks on the site before adoption, pets that have special needs, black coats or senior pets may take four times that long to find a home.
While pets with health problems and disabilities, such as cats with FIV, or dogs with diabetes, can live relatively normal lives with average lifespans, the fact that they require a little extra care, and perhaps medication, makes a pet with special needs less likely to be adopted. Even disabilities as simple as a missing eye or leg, that requires no extra care, can cause a pet to be passed over. This tragic fact is made even more so when you consider how rewarding it can be to bring a pet like this into your family, and how manageable many disabilities and illnesses can become with a little education and support from a great veterinarian.
It may seem like an old wives’ tale, but many shelters and rescues still report that animals with a black coat are less likely to be adopted than pets of any other color. There are varying views on why this is true, from the lingering stigma of black cats (and even dogs) of old being associated with witchcraft and bad luck, to the belief that they are harder to photograph. Some sources state that it’s simply the fact that there are more black cats and dogs than other colors, and so people will pass them by in favor of a less common color. Whatever the reason, we hope our readers realize what great pets black cats and dogs make (I mean, black cats look like tiny panthers – what could be better?).
And when it comes to senior pets, this may be the saddest less-adoptable category of them all. Many times, senior pets have been given up because their older owners have died or had to move into assisted living, or their owners may have decided that they couldn’t deal with senior-related changes or expenses. These kinds of surrenders are so sad, because senior pets have likely been with their owners for many years, and don’t understand why they have been left in this situation. And, just as a side effect of not being a cute and cuddly little puppy or kitten any longer, these older pets may never find a new home. How sad, considering that senior pets can be the perfect pets – mellow, low demands for energy, they just need a loving place to lay their heads, and kind pat on the head, and a good meal.
When you next find yourself in the position of opening your home to a new pet, we hope that you keep these “less-adoptable” pets in mind. You could even consider covering all of the bases, and adopt a senior, special needs pet who happens to have a black coat – you could save a life and make a new best friend.