For those of you who have a love for senior dogs and wonder why an old dog would end up in a shelter, this posting provides information that will answer your question. Knowing the why behind the thousands of homeless senior dogs living in shelters probably isn’t particularly helpful, but I just felt you should know the facts with the hope that you might consider adopting a senior dog from a shelter. For those of you who already have bailed an oldie but goodie out of the slammer, paws up to you!

Many senior dogs that end up in shelters were cherished companions of elderly people who died or had to move to an assisted living facility that won’t allow dogs. The family either won’t take the dog or there is no family to assume responsibility for the dog.

– Economic hardships cause a family to lose their home and the dog becomes homeless too.

– People divorce and neither person wants the dog.

– Children are born, and the senior dog isn’t able to tolerate the young children because of their energy level, or the parents just don’t want one more responsibility.

– Animal Control Involvement:

  • Dogs are taken from hoarders.
  • Dogs are removed from homes because of neglect and/or abuse.
  • Puppy mills are raided by authorities.
  • Dogs are brought to shelters as strays with no history at all. Many are in terrible shape, but some are relatively healthy. Many of these “strays” are found by the side of the road, often injured. Others are found wandering in neighborhoods.
  • Dogs are abandoned in empty houses.
  • Neighbors intervene on behalf of a neglected dog.

– People bring dogs to shelters claiming they’re strays so they don’t have to pay a surrender fee.

– Former show dogs are no longer useful and are brought to the shelter to be euthanized.

– People move away and don’t want to take the dog with them for various reasons.

– The dog has health issues the family doesn’t want to deal with, either for financial reasons or because they just don’t want to be bothered with a sick dog.

– People say they have no time for the dog.

– The dog is brought to a shelter by the dog’s human companion to be euthanized.

– The dog has become incontinent and rather than taking the dog to a vet to determine the problem, the people bring the dog to a shelter … in many cases without telling the shelter the real reason they’re surrendering the dog.

– Senior dogs are traded in for puppies.

I’ve talked before about planning ahead so you know that many of the above mentioned situations can be prevented by planning for the care of a senior dog before life circumstances change. Sadly, many people don’t plan ahead, so the bottom line is the same for all of the senior dogs in shelters represented by the above list: no one wants them. Their value in the eyes of others has diminished, and they’ve become expendable.

And yes, I know you feel angry about some of the reasons given above, but please don’t waste your energy thinking about the actions of people who abandon old dogs. I’d like to tell you that people can be educated to think differently about bringing an old dog to a shelter, but for many people dogs are possessions (as they are considered in the eyes of the law) and no amount of education is going to change that perception. Instead, focus on the dogs. Adopt a senior dog from a shelter. Or, if you’re unable to adopt, visit your local shelter and become a volunteer. Shelters do what they can to help the senior dogs in residence but volunteers are always welcome. You could walk dogs, or just hang out with them and let them know you care about them. Or, you could become a foster for Old Dog Haven. Check our website for more information:

Note: The dogs pictured at the top of the post are just a few of the adoptable senior dogs available in western Washington shelters. To find out more about these particular dogs go to .  


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