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Too old? Too awkward? Some adorable shelter animals can't get adopted

One dog was thrown a "pity party" after spending a year at a shelter. But here's why these pets are actually ideal for many people.

While some puppies and kittens get snapped up at B.C. shelters, others spend months waiting for a "fur-ever" home. 

In some cases, animals may wait years for a permanent place to call home or never find a loving owner. 

Staff at the Surrey Animal Resource Centre recently threw a German shepherd in their care named Emma a "pity party" because she's been living at the shelter for over a year "waiting for that special someone to take her home." 

Sadly, Emma is far from an anomaly — even at the Surrey shelter. 

Shelter Manager Shelley Joaquin says the high rate of locals snapping up dogs for adoption has dropped since the spike at the onset of the pandemic. Now, many animals stay at the shelter for upwards of 100 days. 

Animals that stay at shelters for extended periods of time may suffer long-term consequences, including an increased likelihood of behavioural problems and an impacted immune system, according to Joaquin. 

Shelter staff constructed an "Enchanted Forest" play area to keep animals engaged that is made of a whopping 3,300 pounds of recycled tires from 215 car tires; it was made possible through a grant from Kal Tire’s Kal’s RePlay Fund.

But the creative play area doesn't compare with life in a loving home. 

Animal adoptions drop following the pandemic uptick

The BC SPCA has also seen province-wide adoptions dwindle since the record response from the start of the pandemic. 

“When a puppy came into our care, we would have multiple applications – sometime up to 100 – within 24 hours,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of communications for the BC SPCA.

“People were very keen to adopt, and this interest in adoption has remained strong until now.”

While B.C. hasn't seen the increase in surrendered pandemic puppies and kittens as other shelters across Canada, there has been a significant number of animals taken into its care via cruelty investigations, animal abandonment or strays who go unclaimed. 

And while many people prefer to adopt puppies or kittens, others recognize the benefits of welcoming an older animal into their lives. 

Kim Monteith, BC SPCA’s Manager, Animal Welfare, tells Vancouver Is Awesome that there is a range of benefits to adopting an older cat or dog. But it does depend on whether they will require continued medical care or just a place to retire.

"I wouldn't say age is a factor when it comes to adopting animals out, I think different animals like rabbits are harder to adopt out. We're so lucky here in Vancouver, people are amazing and want to adopt the old and young," she explains. 

Some older animals may even be easier to adopt because they are trained or have fewer behavioural concerns. And, of course, they are also "special people" who open their hearts and homes to senior pets  "who may not live long or need ongoing medical care," adds Monteith.

"We always find those special people."

What are some of the benefits of adopting a senior animal?

Older animals may already be trained, making them ideal pets for people who want to relax on the couch and not deal with the boundless energy of an exuberant puppy or a playful kitten. Put simply: many of them won't "take the work that a younger animal will require."

Unfortunately, some older four-legged furry best friends languish longer in shelters — and they might not have that many years left. 

Dorothy is a 12-year-old domestic short hair who has been in the BC SPCA’s care for 57 days. She was brought into the Vancouver SPCA branch as a stray in very poor condition.

"Dorothy is very forgiving and a real sweetheart. She enjoys lots of pets and lounging close to humans. When given the opportunity she will sit and sunbathe or look out the window and people watch," says Monteith.

The senior kitty's favourite pastimes include "catnip, treats, head scratches, napping, and more catnip" and she is a "very social girl" who can also be independent.

"She would do well in a quieter home with no other animals as she is still healing from surgery," she adds, noting that she loves attention and would benefit from being adopted by someone who is home a great deal. 

The Vancouver branch doesn't euthanize healthy adoptable animals. Instead, animals who don't get adopted in the city are transferred through its Drive For Lives program to other BC SPCA centres to increase their chances for adoption. 

Folks looking to adopt a new pet should always consider if they have the resources and time to devote to them. Adopting an animal is not something that can be taken lightly. Have a look at some adoption considerations and tips with the BC SPCA. 

If you are looking to adopt, check out the BC SPCA adoption resource online. You'll be asked to submit an online application form, which staff will review. If you seem like a match, you'll be invited to come and meet the animal.