Over the years since the Senior Dogs Project was founded in 1997, we have seen a substantial change in attitudes about senior dogs. Although we recoil each time we hear about a person who wants help “getting rid of” the family’s senior dog (yes, hard as that is to believe, some people still do see a dog as a disposable object), we are not as pessimistic as we used to be about the dog’s future — or lack thereof. More shelters and rescue agencies than ever now make an attempt to rehome the seniors who come their way. It’s different in various parts of the U.S. and the world, but, in general, there’s cause for hope. We’ve created this page to help individuals who might be considering the surrender of a senior dog due to unforeseen or unfortunate circumstances, and to help rescue workers and anyone else who is willing to take on the task of finding a new home for a senior dog.
An individual can act as an effective advocate in finding the best possible new home for a senior dog. Shelters and rescue agencies are overburdened, underfunded and understaffed; they generally do the best they can and will try to assist you. However, if you can take on the task yourself, the result can be very successful. Here are our tips, beginning with how to figure out if it’s really necessary to give up a dog.
If you are (or someone you know is) considering the surrender of a senior dog, here are issues to think about:
There are many reasons that people feel they need to give up a dog — they’re moving, they can’t find a landlord who accepts dogs, their work schedule has changed, the dog’s primary guardian has died and no one in the family wants him, the dog has separation anxiety, the dog seems to have forgotten his housetraining, the dog’s barking annoys neighbors, they’re afraid the dog will hurt their child, no time for the dog now that the new baby has arrived, etc. Solutions exist to many of these problems. The following links will help you to re-evaluate your position and to explore some alternatives:
Having trouble finding an apartment that will accept dogs? Read the Humane Society’s recommendations. Among them: how to prepare a marketing presentation about your dog that you can give to prospective landlords to convince them that YOUR dog is the model tenant and you are the model responsible dog owner. You should always be prepared to offer a pet security deposit in addition to the basic security deposit.
Another site that can help you locate an apartment in your city that will accept pets is: http://www.peoplewithpets.com/
Or download: 13 Steps To Finding Rental Housing That Accepts Pets
Once you’ve found an apartment, you’ll want to ensure the return of any pet deposit you’ve made and also create a good relationship with your landlord by following the good advice at How to Pet-proof Your Apartment or Home for Your Pet.
Rehoming a Senior Will Take Time!!
Keep in mind that re-homing a senior will require time and patience. Most people want puppies or young dogs, and thus it is highly unlikely that you will be able to find a home for an older dog “right away.” It is unrealistic and impractical to approach the situation with that attitude. Keep in mind, also, that you can be your dog’s best advocate in finding a new home. As your dog’s advocate, it makes sense for you to take the time and make the effort to advertise for and properly screen a prospective new home. The “Suggestions for Placement Methods” listed below will help you.
Best Friends has many good suggestions on their Rehoming Page.
Be aware that your dog will experience quite a bit of stress and disorientation when he is displaced from the home and family he has grown to know and love. Be prepared to “stand by” with help and support to the adoptive family.
If you are an individual who has found a stray dog, and you have been unsuccessful in finding the dog’s family, the first thing we’d like to do is to thank you for your compassion and kindness in trying to help the dog. You may be aware that giving the dog to your local shelter may not be the best way to help the dog. Many shelters do not have the resources to keep older dogs or attempt to re-home them. Unless the shelter advertises itself as “no kill,” a senior dog may be expeditiously euthanized. Before releasing the dog to a shelter, please get a clear answer regarding whether it is a “kill” or a “no kill” organization.
Have the stray dog screened for a microchip at your local shelter (without surrendering him), which would enable them to locate his guardian. If not, find a local veterinarian to do it. If the dog is not microchipped, you should contact all the local shelters to tell them that you have found the dog so that the information can be made available, should the dog’s guardians be searching for him. You can also run a newspaper ad and post “found dog” flyers in the neighborhood and at local veterinarians’ offices, and also check the local newspapers for ads the dog’s guardians may have placed in an effort to find him.
If no one claims the dog within a few weeks, and if you can act as an advocate for the dog, you can follow the “Suggestions for Placement Methods” below. The Best Friends site also has good information on various methods of helping a stray.
Suggestions for Placement Methods
There are many things to be cautious about in placing a dog into a new home. Not all homes will qualify or be appropriate for a specific dog.
Best Friends Sanctuary has a number of online articles that can be helpful in your efforts to rehome a dog.
More advice and information are available from the Sunbear Squad.
Internet advertising is usually done by certified shelters or rescue groups. Often they will provide “courtesy” listings of dogs that are not in their guardianship. Be sure to contact your local animal welfare organizations and rescue groups to determine if they offer this service. Other online advertising sites, such as Craig’s List, might not be a good option. There have been many dogs that have died, neglected and/or abused, as a result of being adopted via an advertising site that is not dedicated to dog rescue.
Print advertising can be highly effective. Check the “Pets” ad pages in your local newspaper. Many papers have a special section for dog rescue. Community or church or supermarket bulletin boards are also places to post flyers about a dog in need of a home.
If the dog you are trying to place is of a specific breed, and you have not been successful in finding a new home despite a genuine effort to advertise, etc., you should contact the appropriate breed rescue group. See the breed rescue page on this site. Also be sure to use a search engine for additional breed rescue contacts (use a search term such as “Pug Rescue.”)
The srdogs.com site lists many shelters and rescue agencies that have indicated they are willing to help senior dogs find homes. Most of the shelters are “no kill,” but those that aren’t will do their best to help an older dog find a home. You can use this list to see which group might have room for a dog you are trying to rehome.
The need for an alternative to euthanasia for senior and special needs dogs has been answered by several organizations in the U.S. If you have run out of all other possibilities, these are places you should try. They are “last resort” only in the sense that you should do all you can through other means before applying to them. They are excellent facilities, however, and are often successful in rehoming older and special needs dogs where others have failed. Any dog who is not rehomed lives out his natural life at the facility. Space is usually quite scarce at these places, however. See the Sanctuaries page on this site.
If you are not familiar with the operation of a specific sanctuary, you should request references and network to find out about it before releasing a dog to the organization. There have been cases of sanctuaries that are not well run. To this end, you can visit the website of the American Sanctuary Association. The group has been organized to provide a more efficient means by which to find and identify quality facilities in which to place homeless, abused or abandoned animals, facilitate the exchange of information among animal caregivers, and to create public awareness of the national problem of homeless native and non-native wild and domestic animals.