Young at Heart: A second chance for senior pets

Young at Heart: A second chance for senior pets
12 year old Princess settles into a forever home with new kitty sibling Ipstitch (15).

I’d like to let you in on a little secret. If you’re thinking of adding a pet to your home, a great option is one that you just may be overlooking – a senior pet. While many folks gravitate toward the kittens, puppies and energetic young adult pets looking for homes, so many senior pets are ready to settle in with a family.

November is Adopt A Senior Pet Month to help build awareness about the large number of older pets needing homes. For Young At Heart Pet Rescue, every month is Adopt A Senior Pet Month and the group has been working hard for eight years to get the word out about the benefits in adopting senior pets.

Rescuing seniors

“When we first started rescuing, we saw few pets older than five at many of the local shelters,” says Dawn Kemper, founder and Executive Director of the organization. “Now, I see more local shelters and rescues with dogs and cats 5 to 8 years old. They’ve seen the value of rescuing and putting time into the older pets and are adopting them out. It’s opened the door for us to rescue older pets. Our average age is now 10 years old.”

Snuggles found a new home over the weekend.

Snuggles found a new home over the weekend.

Kemper started Young at Heart Pet Rescue after seeing the large number of senior pets left behind at open access shelters. After spending their life giving unconditional love to their families, senior dogs and cats would end up at shelters when their owners died, went into long term care, lost their homes or for other reasons.

Because the senior dogs and senior cats were competing with puppies, kittens and other “more popular options,” their chance for adoption was slim. So, most of the pets were on borrowed time facing euthanasia with little hope of a happily ever after for their golden years.

Along with rescuing seniors, Young at Heart Pet Rescue has also worked to sing the praises of adopting older pets. They’ve rehomed almost 600 pets in the past eight years and hope to adopt out 120 by the end of this year. Adoptions mean more than just finding a home for pets in need, each adoption opens the door for another animal to be rescued.

Benefits of senior adoption

“Its nice because people are starting to realize that with the crazy busy lifestyles they lead, they just don’t have time to invest in training a puppy or kitten or younger pet,” says Kemper. “Older pets are calm and settled and really crave a regular routine. They don’t need a long walk at the end of the day to wear off the extra energy. They are happy with a little time in the yard and cuddle time. Also, what you see is what you get…we know their personalities and which pets like kids or other pets.”

Sherman was rescued this week after four pets were adopted out last weekend.

Sherman was rescued this week after four pets were adopted out last weekend.

Unlike puppies and younger pets, senior pets are housebroken, trained, more settled and very used to a daily routine from being in a household. Once they are ready for adoption, they just need some quiet time to get their bearings in a new home.

“We have a saying that age is just a number,” adds Kemper. “An eight to 10 year old dog or cat could have many good years left thanks to modern veterinary care. We also do a full veterinary work up – blood panel, shots, dental, spay or neuter – because we don’t have veterinary background on most pets we take in. It just removes another obstacle to adoption.”

Saving lives

Young at Heart pulls from open access shelters from throughout Illinois and they get many more calls a week than they are able to handle. The group tries to pull from as many shelters as they can, knowing they are the last chance of survival for so many animal control facilities. They don’t take in owner give ups, but do cross post for private families and other groups on their website and have a good track record of helping those pets find a new homes as well.

Maddox, age 12, settles into a new home. He was adopted into Sanctuary this weekend.

Maddox, age 12, settles into a new home. He was adopted into Sanctuary this weekend.

“The support for what we are doing continues to grow,” says Kemper. “We have a great group of volunteers and adopters…more and more of them are repeat adopters. We can always use more foster homes to help us rescue more animals. Potential fosters do need to realize that this is more of a long term commitment than other groups. It takes on average four months for many of our pets to find homes.”

The organization doesn’t give up on pets with severe medical issues either.  Dogs and cats that have been diagnosed with life long health issues can qualify for sanctuary. Those that qualify for sanctuary will have their medical bills paid for by the organization while they live out their life with a long term foster or are adopted with sanctuary support.

Emma is a 10 year old in search of a home.

Emma is a 10 year old in search of a home.

During Adopt A Senior Pet Month, YAH Rescue has cut their adoption fees in half to encourage more adoptions. Dog adoptions will be $87.50 and cats will be $37.50 throughout the month. The organization will also waive adoption fees for people 65 and older adopting pets older than 10 years old through their Heart-To-Heart Program. The first four days of November saw four pets move onto forever homes, including Maddox, a sanctuary dog.

On the agenda is a future sanctuary and adoption center. Young At Heart Pet Rescue has purchased eight acres in McHenry county to be their new home. I’ll have more details on that later in the month. I’ll also have some of their tips for helping family members rehome a senior pet as opposed to leaving them in a shelter. Check out their Facebook page to follow their work.

Other stories of that may be of interest if you’re considering adopting –

  • Read about my active senior cats here.
  • Tips for what to consider before adding a dog or cat to your home.
  • And, read about how being left behind at animal control affects pets here.

Do you have a senior pet? We’d love to have a picture illustrating the benefits of adopting as told by your senior pet – it could be that senior pets know how to drive, are great as homework tutors, or are awesome fellow couch potatos. Be creative. Send your photo, pets name and age to kathypetexam@gmail.com my Monday, November 11. I’ll post a slide show later in the month.

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You may reach me at kathypetexam@gmail.com and find me at on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Filed under: Pets

Tags: cats, Dogs, Young At Heart Pet Rescue

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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