Animal shelters working hard to find homes for older dogs

January 3rd, 2011
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The Kansas City Star

Sure, Andros could lose a few inches off the waistline.

But his figure isn’t the real reason that he’s passed over for “higher opportunities” these days. The real problem reeks of ageism.

At the ripe old age of 7, Andros probably is past his prime days of playing fetch. It has been years since he passed for a puppy. The collie-shepherd mix is a shelter dog and just plain too old for many adopters’ tastes.

Of course “senior” — not old — is the preferred term at the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City. The shelter dubs pets 7 years or older as senior. And right now, senior dogs occupy 20 percent of the Humane Society’s no-kill shelter space. The average is 7 to 10 percent.

“Finding the right person that is willing to open up their home and heart to a senior pet typically takes five times longer than finding a home for a younger animal,” said Robin Rowland, a Humane Society spokeswoman.

“Senior pets come to us for a variety of reasons — but the main ones are: the owner has died, the owner has become too old themselves to care for the animal or they’ve been picked up because of neglect.”

Andros appeared to have lived a charmed life for some time. By all accounts his owner took good care of him. He ended up at the city shelter only after his owner died earlier this year.

The Humane Society took him in as part of the Ray of Hope program, a partnership formed by the Humane Society and the Kansas City, Kan. pound, making Wyandotte County a no-kill county. The program means more senior dogs stay longer.

In addition to age, other factors can make older dogs less attractive. People fear that they may be set in their ways, and they may come with caveats that include no other pets.

And there’s the looming fact that death is approaching. It’s too much to shoulder for some potential owners.

“It’s so hard to lose your pet, and when you know that they’re seniors, you know it’s going to come sooner than later,” Rowland said.

Senior dogs do offer a few perks that a puppy can’t compete with, including being cheaper to adopt. The Humane Society charges less for senior dogs. Adoption fees are $50 compared with $90 for others.

“A lot of times they’re already house-trained. They’ve lived in a home. They’re not super hyper like a puppy would be,” Rowland said. “They’re just more companion-type focused.”

John Rupard can attest to the fact that senior dogs don’t usually chew on your furniture while you’re at work. Rupard adopted Gilmore, a 7-year-old a shepherd mix, almost precisely because he would be a laid-back companion.

“I was looking for a dog that I wouldn’t have to really train,” he said.

Gilmore had lingered at the shelter for more than a year. His labored gait, which was a byproduct of living on a chain for years, turned off many adopters. But his relaxed style was a perfect fit for Rupard.

“He wanted a companion,” Rowland said, “and that is exactly what Gilmore has given him.”

Here are some of the senior animals available for adoption at the Humane Society:


Roger: The 7-year-old dachshund is a people magnet but is not crazy about other pets. He’s energetic and house-trained.


Fancy: This 9-year-old Akita weighs in at 90 pounds, but don’t let that fool you. She’s a teddy bear who keeps her kennel tidy.


Toffee: Poor Toffee had no food or water and lived most of his life on a chain until he was rescued. He’s 9 years old and 60 pounds.


Patricia: This 10-year-old shar-pei mix was taken after she was severely neglected. She has incontinence issues, which are managed by daily medication.


Falcon: The 10-year-old cattle dog and Lab mix was a mess when he arrived. He’s doing much better and is looking for a companion.

To learn more about the pets, call 913-596-1000 or go to

To reach Dawn Bormann, call 816-234-7704 or send e-mail to


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