Less Adoptable Pets and How You Can Help Them

adopt a less adoptable pet weekThis week, September 21-27th is Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week. Petfinder.com established this annual event in 2009.The purpose of this week is to recognize, and hopefully find homes for, those pets who are seen as “less adoptable”.

What makes a pet “less adoptable”?

Pets that are considered by society as “less adoptable” are just as loving, sweet, and kind as all of the other pets. However, they aren’t blessed with the natural poster child adoptability as the other pets in the shelter. Many people probably don’t realize that certain types of pets have a harder time finding their forever home, but Petfinder.com discovered that less adoptable pets spend an average of 48 weeks on Petfinder.com where other pets spend about 12.5 weeks. This week is less about the beautiful puppy that with undoubtedly get a home and more about the underdogs and cats in the shelters and rescues throughout the U.S.

Here are some examples of pets who are considered “less adoptable” and would love to make this week the week they find their forever home.

Black Dogs and Black Cats: There are several theories behind the phenomenon that is Black Dog Syndrome (which also applies to cats). Petfinder.com states that Black Dog Syndrome could be due to the following factors; the size of the dog, dimly lit kennels, unclear facial features, and negative portrayals of black pets in books and media. No matter what theory you subscribe to, research supports that black dogs and cats have a difficult time getting adopted. Therefore, this is the week to go down to the shelter and add a black dog or cat to your family!

Senior Pets: For the life of me, I can’t figure out why senior pets are considered less adoptable. Senior pets may not be able to give you the same number of years that other pets can, but they can give you some of the best years of your life. Senior pets are already house trained and have an attainable level of energy. If you are someone who likes to do the following things; take a nap, go for a leisurely walk, sleep-in, cuddle, hang-out, or watch a movie, then a senior pet is right for you.

Special Needs Pets: Special needs pets could come in many different sizes or shapes. The term special needs may sound intimidating to some potential pet parents, but the needs aren’t always what they seem. For example, a cat with one eye is considered special needs. However, her needs are pretty simple, she has just had some challenges in her life, but her quality of life is still great! In some cases, a special needs pet may require an experienced pet owner, so if you fit that criteria, you could provide an excellent home for a loving pet.

What can you do to improve the likelihood that these pets will get a home?

  • Share their photos on social media. Social media has helped many pets find their forever homes in recent years. Use your online social presence to bring awareness to the adoptability of black dogs and cats, seniors pets, and special needs pets.
  • Educate your friends and family. Knowledge is power, so share it! Tell people about black dog syndrome and the benefits of having a senior or special needs pet by your side!
  • Share your story! If you have shared your life with a black pet, a special needs pet or a senior pet, share your story. Sharing positive stories can help change the stigma associated with these categories of pets. My hope is that 10-20 years from now these categories are no longer considered “less adoptable”.

Speaking of sharing...

If you have shared your life with a “less adoptable” pet, please share your story in the comments below so we can show others there is nothing “less” about these pets!

Dogtime http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/18403-adopt-a-less-adoptable-pet-week-2013

Petfinder https://www.petfinder.com/pet-adoption/dog-adoption/black-dog-syndrome/


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Positively Expert: Rachel Sheppard

Rachel Sheppard is the author and founder of My Kid Has Paws. She is a Social Media Manager, blogger, animal lover, volunteer, graduate student, and shoe collector.


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  • Black cats are beautiful - my mate has an all-black boy with green eyes and he's absolutely stunning. It was the knowledge that they have difficulty being adopted that led to me first approaching my local shelter specifically looking for a black cat.

    As it turned out, they didn't have any black cats suitable for indoor homes, but I ended up taking another difficult rehome: a tortoiseshell they'd had trouble placing. She had been there for three months, passed over by many families, miserable in foster care because of the other cats, and brought back to the shelter by one adopter after just one day, citing allergies. The shelter staff were very eager as soon as I expressed interest in her! I was ready to deal with personality difficulties, but she's been brilliant and fit right in at home. In fact, you can see Clawsewitz's success story elsewhere on this site.

    I encourage everyone to embrace their inner pet hipster and go for the pets who are less often adopted, but oh so adoptable!

  • Diane

    I adopted my foster dog. She would never have been adopted at the shelter. She was very shy and scared and had not had much human contact. She was tense when being touched and shut down and hid when seeing a leash. After many months of working to get her to associate touch and the leash with positive things, she is now happily walking on the leash in the fields and woods. She is very loving and excited to see me and now asks to be touched and wants to be by my side all the time. Most people adopt the outgoing dog who comes running to them at the shelter. Please don't overlook the shy dogs. The shelter is a very scary place and they really need a loving home to blossom. It has been very rewarding to see her progress. I have a special bond with my Belle.

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Well said Herm! Thank you for sharing your story and for being an advocate to so many pets!

  • flick

    For 30 odd years I have had all black cats, (except for one tabby, handsome devils! ! All were rescues!
    Black dogs never been lucky to have one till 4 years ago, yes some people say she is scarey because of her eyes, but to me and many they are beautiful!
    Had a old boy from a rescue he had loads of health problem, but he was a lovely dog couldnt fault his behaviour, good with everyone and everything. There was no history on him and all this was a bonus. Only minus part was only had him 22 months x

  • Robin Watkins Farrington

    I must say, all my pet's fit into this category. I've had a black cat who adopted me on Halloween .I received a chihuahua who disowned because he wouldn't be an outside dog and would climb over the fence and ate the neighbors cat food.
    I've had a bo-jack who was abused and then developed glaucoma. Which left him blind, he lived until the cancer became too much for him. I received a Jack Russell , a senior who also was severely abused. With his tremors related to the abuse, made him un adoptable. He spent the last 3 years of his life in a warm and loving home. I currently have a black lab mix whose mother was a throw away and another Jack Russell also a throw away. I wouldn't change anything.

  • I have three "less adoptable" pets. One hound who was from a research firm and has a medical history that's ... a mystery. A Boston who was a puppy mill mom and lost her eye to infection, and a kitty who was older when we got her. I LOVE them to pieces! Oh, I love black cats and dogs, too. C'mon folks, let's give seniors, black pets, and disabled pets a chance. They're full of love too!

  • We've never understood why black animals have such a bag stigma attached to them. We think they are beautiful.

  • Tenacious Little Terrier

    I feel somewhat guilty because Mr. N was in the very adoptable category and he had a score of people who put in applications for him. We did foster a black dog though.

  • Joanna

    I just don't understand why black dogs and cats have a hard time getting adopted. They're beautiful! I adopted my dog Billy. He was incredibly adorable looking up at me with his big eyes from behind those bars. He was obviously nervous and highly strung, and just wanted to climb all over me. I took him home, and 8 years later he's still here by my side. We have our challenges but we also have loads of love. Billy is my dog and I'm his human.

  • Tami Greer

    Thank you for calling attention to this need, and an even bigger thank you to those that have adopted these oft-overlooked animals. I have 4 (maybe 5) animals that, had they not landed in my home, would definitely have bounced in and out of shelters their entire lives. (nippy behavior, litterbox, age) I can't imagine my life without them!

  • It is so sad how so many pets get pigeonholed into this "less-adoptable" category by our society. I hate to think about what it is like for those poor dogs and cats who have to wait months for someone to consider taking them home. Hopefully, now that the internet carries ideas so quickly to people, us pet owners and influencers will be able to turn those perceptions around.

    -Purrs from your friends at http://www.PlayfulKitty.net

  • I really think that sharing adoptable pets on social media is one of the easiest ways to make a difference in their lives. Thanks for reminding us to give them a chance to find a home!

  • Talent Hounds

    Kilo the Pug is black and a bit troubled- not sure why but seems fear related. I started out fostering, but he is still here. We love sharing happy tails #rescuesrock. Our stories of dogs like Smiley, Heidi, Boomer, Hudson, Teddy, Harley and Arthur - all special needs- show that special needs dogs can be amazing and can inspire kids and adults.

  • MattieDog

    We've adopted sick dogs, old dogs, and dogs in respite care - while not perfect, dey was perfect for us!

  • Thank you for this post. The thing is, my little mis-fits are nothing less than perfection. People are missing out by overlooking these beautiful souls.

  • beaglesbargains

    This is such a great post. Sharing!!! It is so heartbreaking how long it takes some pets to find families and that some never do. We are planning to have a black dog be the next to join our family! We even have a name picked out already 🙂

  • LadyKylaine

    We adopted a 6 year old heartworm positive siberian husky and she is the best, most well behaved and loving dog I have ever had. A year and a half later she is heartworm negative and brightens my life everyday 🙂

  • Rachel Sheppard

    That is amazing! Thank you for sharing!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    That is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Couldn't agree more 🙂

  • Rachel Sheppard

    That is awesome! Thank you for helping to change the minds of others 🙂

  • Rachel Sheppard

    That is awesome! Thank you for all that you do!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    I couldn't agree more Beth. I hope that Social Media has been able to make a huge impact for these pets!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    I agree Robin. That is our mission 🙂

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Thank you so much for sharing Tami!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Diane, thank you so much for sharing and for being so patient so that you could give Belle an amazing life!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Flick that you so much for what you do for black dogs and cats and for sharing your amazing story!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    It sounds like you have saved a lot of lives Robin 🙂 Thank you for all that you do!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Couldn't agree more Yvonne! Thank you for sharing!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    I couldn't agree more!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Well said Joanna! Thank you of sharing!

  • Rachel Sheppard

    Rooney was very adoptable as well, but a senior is definitely next on my list! Thank you for sharing!

  • penelopej7

    My "heart dog" died in December at 16, so I decided I would honor her by fostering for the local rescue. I walked thru the kennel and passed a black lab mix who was so shut down he didn't even raise his head when I spoke to him. I told the rescue I wanted to foster Dave. "What?!!! You want Dave??!!!" He was 6 yrs old and had been in the kennel 8 mo. with no interest. I took him home, he was so sad. I let him loose in our fenced yard, and he didn't know what to do. I put the leash back on and walked him around, he started sniffing and wandered into a pile of leaves and sat down, looking around. I snapped a photo, and sent it to the rescue at 1 PM, just because it was a nice pic of him. The rescue posted the pic on Petfinder, and at 7 that evening, the rescue called and told me someone wanted him!!! Six hours and one sweet photo after sitting in the kennel 8 months! We had him 10 days after that, then he went to his forever home. I can't describe the happiness that gave me. Since then, I foster old shut down dogs nobody wants. The joy of seeing them come alive is priceless, and as the rescue told me, fostering makes the difference.

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