Wouldn’t it be great if you found a pet that was already family-ready the next time you adopted a dog or cat? A pet ready to settle-in without lots of training? There are so many pets that do fit the bill if you open your heart to a senior pet. November is Adopt-A-Senior Pet Month and rescues are getting the word out that older pets make a great addition to many homes.
“The important thing to remember with senior pets is – what you see is what you get,” says Dawn Kemper, executive director of Young at Heart Pet Rescue. “These pets lived a long life for a good reason – their behavior is great and they have a good personality. Many of them are good with other animals. They’ve lived the good life for years and through no fault of their own, have lost their family.”
Senior pets often end up in shelters when their owner dies or goes into long-term care. Sometimes families lose their home or they may be forced to move to a non-pet friendly home due to economic issues. The bad news is that at open admission shelters – ones that can't turn any pet down – these great pets often are euthanized because they are considered unwanted. That’s why Kemper founded Young at Heart Pet Rescue – a group that focuses on rescuing senior cats and dogs from those shelters – nine years ago.
“When we started our group, no one was really going to bat for senior pets,” says Kemper. “I kept hearing people coming into the shelter to adopt looking for pets that were housetrained and family-ready. But, they didn’t want seniors. We’ve worked hard to rescue and educate about these great pets that just need one thing – a second chance.”
And, they’ve given a lot of dogs and cats that chance. Since it’s founding, nearly 700 pets have found new homes thanks to Young at Heart’s efforts. They pull from Chicago Animal Care and Control, the Animal Welfare League and other shelters where all pets are living on borrowed time. The motto at Young at Heart Rescue – love has no age limit – is starting to catch on.
“The attitude has changed at other rescue organizations over the last 9 years,” says Kemper. “It was rare then to find seniors available for adoption at shelters and resuces. Now we see more and more senior pets available with other groups. They’ve learned what we’ve known for a long time – senior pets may take a bit longer to find the right home, but they are worth it."
And, those rescued truly appreciate the second chance.
“They so are happy to be back in a home. We pull them from shelters and go directly to the veterinarians office because they’ve been exposed to so much in the shelter,” she adds. “The stress of the shelter suppresses their autoimmune system. Upper respiratory infections are common and can lead to pneumonia.
“Many of them spend a few weeks at the vet getting well for adoption. When the settle into their foster home, they just fit right in. They’ll climb on the furniture, settle into a routine and get the best sleep they’ve had in awhile.”
Kemper’s group uses foster homes to get pets ready for adoption. There is short term care of a few weeks – primarily getting a pet ready for adoption or a long term foster while recovering after rescue. Regular fosters will have the pet live in their home until the pet is adopted. Sanctuary foster homes allow senior pets with medical issues that are too complex for traditional adoption to enjoy the love of a family while Young at Heart pays for all the medical expenses for the Sanctuary Pet.
In a few years, those rescue numbers could be even higher. The rescue has a lot and plans in the works for a shelter and sanctuary that will enable them to rescue more senior pets and help them get a second chance at a happy ending. Learn more about how to help Young at Heart online or their Facebook page.
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