Animal associations

Local animal shelters are giving senior pets a second chance during Senior Pet Month


Photo by Craig Reynolds. Shelter cat available for adoption at the APA Adoption Center.

Whether it’s a German Shepherd or a tabby cat, pets can bring love and joy to their owner. And while puppies and kittens are usually the superstars of animal shelters and pet stores, senior pets deserve the same company.

Senior pets are in the spotlight in November for National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, and local animal shelters have plenty of pets — including seniors — with love to spare. The Animal Welfare Association (APA) Adoption Center adopts thousands of animals each year; this year they are set for a record 5,000 adoptions. Similarly, Stray Rescue of St. Louis – which just celebrated its 25th anniversary – takes in and rehoms pets turned down by other organizations.

Photo by Craig Reynolds. Shelter cats in their kennels at the APA Adoption Center. On the right is the “Catio”, a glass box where free-roaming cats can relax and enjoy the outdoors in complete safety.

The APA is adopting senior pets to new owners at a rapid rate, despite public misconceptions about the cost of owning a senior animal. The shelter’s veterinary team ensures each animal is as healthy as possible before adoption, allowing owners to enjoy the benefits of owning an older animal without worrying about the added cost of medical bills.

“I think a lot of the animals we see still have a lot of life in them and a lot of love to give,” said Sarah Javier, APA President and CEO. “Some people specifically come for older pets because they want to give them a chance to be in a home for the rest of their lives, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Photo by Craig Reynolds. A dog park behind the APA Adoption Center where shelter dogs can play and interact with potential new owners.

The unique experience of adopting a senior pet has practical, as well as personal benefits. Older animals are past the hyper destructive phase and are fairly easygoing, making them ideal companions for those with a calmer lifestyle.

“If you’re looking for a dog or cat that just wants to lay down and watch TV, they’re usually ready for that. But a lot of them, even though they’re a bit older, still have a bit of playfulness,” Javier said.

To match senior pets with the perfect owners, Stray Rescue offers a Seniors for Seniors program in which the shelter waives adoption fees. Older adults are paired with senior pets to match their activity levels with a promise of medical attention from the shelter as needed. Marketing Director Natalie Thomson emphasizes the special relationship between a senior animal and its owner.

“We believe that all pets deserve a loving home and that all homes deserve a loving pet, regardless of age. Senior dogs have just as much love and companionship to give. They have lived long, often difficult lives and also deserve to receive love and comfort,” Thomson said.

Depending on the situation, Stray Rescue also provides medical support for older adopted pets, with the goal of giving older pets the chance to leave the noisy shelter and be spoiled for their golden years. Accompanying a senior pet during this precious time is an irreplaceable experience.

“Probably the biggest reason we hear why someone doesn’t want a senior pet is because ‘I won’t have a lot of time with them. It’s a fitting fear to have to say goodbye, but to have enriched this dog’s life with a love he’s yearned for all his life is one of life’s greatest gifts. It’s an experience you’ll remember forever,” said Thomson.

Photo by Craig Reynolds. APA Adoption Center on S Hanley Road in Brentwood, MO.

Those interested in adopting or fostering a pet from Stray Rescue can visit strayrescue.org to complete an application or drop by 2320 Pine St. in St. Louis. To contact the APA for placement or adoption, visit apamo.org or go to 1705 S Hanley Road in Brentwood.

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