Home > Animal Rescue, Pet Adoption, Pet Ponderings > Dumping an Older Dog at an Animal Shelter

Dumping an Older Dog at an Animal Shelter

December 27, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I recently saw this image shared on Facebook and shared it on my page as well. It struck a chord with me. I have seen many an older dog dumped at our shelter when I was a volunteer, mostly because the owner no longer wanted it or they just couldn’t face putting their beloved dog to sleep. My last dog, Aspen, was just such a dog. The excuse they gave was that she jumped the fence, but I know better. She had arthritis and moved way too slow to be able to jump a fence. She had health issues that took her life only a year later (I’m just glad she was in my arms when it was time and not at the shelter).

I know that there are sometimes reasons why a person can’t be with their dog when it’s time to say goodbye at the veterinarians office (see Dr. V’s post from a year ago here), but am I wrong to think that a person is a coward if they dump their dog at a shelter when they get too old? Or, is this just a result of our throwaway culture? After all, people buy/adopt a pet without thinking pretty often and then get rid of it when they realize the work involved. What do you think? Why do people dump their older dogs at shelters?

  1. December 27, 2011 at 8:04 AM

    If there’s one thing that makes me completely crazy, almost to the point of losing hope in humanity, it’s this. But as I wrote those words and then tried to answer your question thinking of human equivalents, it occurs to me it’s similar to dumping aged parents and relatives in old age homes. Some people do it out of pure motives, being unable to give quality care and assuming that their relatives will be better off; others just don’t want to deal with old people. But with dogs, unless they’re left at a no-kill shelter, the owners have got to be in denial at what will happen. And it’s still cruel.

    Yep, no matter how I try to put myself in the place of people who would do that, it makes me sick.

  2. Sam
    December 27, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    I couldn’t imagine doing it, and I absolutely have no love for someone who does it. It isn’t limited to dogs and cats. People do it to horses too – I’ve rescued several old horses that people didn’t want to “watch die”. These have been good horses too – well loved, until that day at least, and several of them have lived many more years past. I ranted for a few minutes before typing this, because I would have sounded ugly, but it isn’t wrong to think dumping a old pet is wrong. It is animal abuse too. The people who do it are cowards.

    I think I’m getting back on my soap box…

    Sam’s Mom, Christine

    • JEN
      December 30, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      OMG! i went to the shelter in my town to search for my cousins dog, and lo and behold tied to a pole in front before they opened was a dirty matted black chow mix. About 12 years old. I snatched him up, took him to self pet wash and hes been my best friend for a year. H e pants and hacks and has alot of fatty tumors but so what. I found him a month after i put my 14 year old who looked exactly like him and a month before my mom died. MY BLESSING FOR SURE!!!

      • Mel
        December 30, 2011 at 5:59 PM

        Oh wow Jen. God bless you for taking him in. Sadly, shelters often see animals abandoned or tied up outside their facilities. How sad that he had to go through all of that, but what a blessing that it was you who found him. He’s a very lucky dog. Thank you for sharing your story. You are amazing.

  3. December 27, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Mel, I also see it as a form of elder abuse when people go on vacation and board dogs at instead of putting them to sleep like they should have months before. Or um…NOT GONE!! I saw that quite a few times at a place I used to teach classes at. Old dogs at a shelter…so sad.

  4. Aimee
    December 27, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    I recently rescued an 11 yr old Shih Tzu that was dropped off “because her owner couldn’t care for her anymore” – could be many reasons; could have been elderly & moved into a home or could have been selfish & just didn’t want her, knowing she had some issues. (not fixed for one) Their loss, she is the most loving dog; I’m happy to give her my home for the last years of her life.

  5. December 27, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    I agree – although I hate to be a Judgy McJudgerson (well, I don’t always hate to be one), I think that anyone who dumps their dog at an animal shelter simply because they’re old is a coward. Those people shouldn’t be allowed to own dogs, in my opinion.

    It’s a selfish move – yes, sometimes life hurts and we have to go through painful things. But I wouldn’t shut out a human family member because they were sick and I couldn’t watch them die (and I agree with Edie – putting them in a nursing home is different than sending a dog to a shelter). I don’t understand how someone could get rid of a furry family member for the same reason. I have been sitting here trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who does this, and I cannot find ANY reason that it makes sense. (Though I don’t often understand when people dump their dogs – of any age – at a shelter. I’ve known others who couldn’t keep their dogs who cast the net wide looking for a dog lover to adopt them rather than take them to a shelter. Some people don’t even try that route first.)

    If someone I knew did this to their older dog, I’m pretty sure I would cut that person out of my life immediately. That’s not the type of person I want to be around.

  6. Jen
    December 27, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    I can’t really decide if it’s cowardice, or consumerism. “We used this one, let’s get a new one”.

  7. AntiMoe
    December 27, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    They do it becuase they just don’t care. These are the folks who say “It’s just a dog”. They don’t feel their pet is a member of their family. They are probably the same people who put their senior family members into care facilities and only visit once a month. It isn’t cowardice, it is a lack of compassio0n and caring. It is plain old selfishness.

  8. December 27, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    The whole thing breaks my heart. My dogs are my dogs forever. They gave me the best of everything they had, they deserve the same respect from me. As much as it breaks my heart to see them grow old, it would break my heart far worse not to see them grow old.

  9. December 27, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Seems that there is a consensus here that dumping old dogs is sometimes heartless. I would never do that, but I also hate to generalize and say that everyone who has taken an old dog to a shelter is heartless. Sometimes, like in the case of Aspen, a dog can find a home where it is loved for the last few years of life. Maybe the owner literally could not care for it anymore.

    For all of those who dump out of convenience, I say, shame on you. If a pet has been loyal to you for years, you owe them something in their old age.

    • Mel
      December 27, 2011 at 3:15 PM

      I would agree Maryann. Sometimes we had older dogs come in because an older person was being placed in a facility or the owner was sick and dying. I don’t want to judge those people because sometimes life happens and it’s out of their control. In the case of Aspen, it’s certainly a possibility. But their loss was my gain. You make some great points.

    • December 27, 2011 at 4:47 PM

      Great points… there are situations when circumstances are truly beyond a person’s control, and I can respect that. I agree on your second point as well – people who do this sort of thing out of convenience are horrible.

  10. December 27, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    When I was a little girl, I was taught that dogs should only live outdoors. And the best way to teach a dog not to poop where you didn’t want him to was to push his nose in his mess while yelling at him.

    I learned better over the years and I have hope that others will too.

    It’s terrible that people see dogs and cats as disposable. But someday everyone will know better. We just have to keep on sharing the truth.

  11. December 27, 2011 at 8:17 PM

    While there may be extenuating circumstances where this is somehow necessary, I think 99% of the time it’s simply a combination of selfishness or cowardice. If you’ve had your dog by your side for 7 or 10 or 15 years, to suddenly decide they’re “too old” or you “can’t handle it anymore” – how does the poor dog feel? It’s not like they chose to get older, or that it’s their fault they might not be able to run and jump and play as fast as they used to, or whatever excuse these people use for why it’s “time.” To suddenly take them and dump them in a shelter after that long is not only cruel and unusual, it should be criminal. It’s not like you’re leasing a car where you know after 3 years and 36,000 miles you return it – you’re adopting a family member, companion, and friend. The poor dog would be then left thinking it did something wrong, or that it was somehow its fault… all of a sudden the people who’ve loved it forever are gone and it simply doesn’t know why. We don’t do this to our husbands or wives as we get older, why would we do it to our pets?

    Of course, I may have a slightly skewed perspective on this – we won’t even kennel our adopted dog because she’s a shelter puppy who has already been given up once by whoever owned her previously (she’d just had puppies, they kept the puppies and dumped her at a shelter – probably the same type of inconsiderate people we’re discussing here) – so we go out of our way to make sure either she comes with us on trips, or we have a house-sitter she knows stay with her. We don’t ever want her to think she’s being given up again. She also doesn’t particularly like change (packing, moving, suitcases, etc).

    The bottom line is if you love your pet like a family member, you make whatever arrangements need to be made to make sure its needs are covered, and it is cared for -always. Your pet loves you unconditionally the entire time you have it in your family, it’s the least you can do for it in return.

    • Mel
      December 28, 2011 at 12:54 AM

      Well said Rocketman!

  12. December 28, 2011 at 2:00 AM

    I think that there are many factors at play when older dogs get dropped off at shelters. I do think that the majority of older animals get “dumped” because they are no longer young & fun, which I just do not understand. I treat Jersey and Dexter like family members. With Jersey nearing 9 years old, I could not imagine giving her up because she is getting on in years. My pets are for life.

    • Mel
      December 28, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      I agree Karen. I should have probably made clear that the circumstances I was talking about were the ones in which someone dumps an older pet at a shelter just because they are getting old or are an inconvenience. I have seen many a sad story that involved older pets who’s owners were in sad circumstances. My heart breaks for those folks. I cannot imagine the pain.
      My pets are for life too.

  13. December 28, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    We’re definitely seeing a shift in the way people think about their pets. Virgin Atlantic announced this week they’d seen a 1500% increase in people flying with their pets since 2003. As more and more people see their pets as members of the family, I’m hoping we’ll see a big decline in the number of old dogs dumped in shelters.

    There will always be people who suddenly loose their own health and can no longer care for their older pets. And, in this economy, people may be choosing between their own medicine or food and medical treatments for their pets. It’s an unthinkable situation to be in, and one that I’m sure few people expect to find themselves.

    I have to tell you this: My great aunt and uncle’s dog passed away last summer. This spring they adopted a little papillon and their major consideration was that they get an older dog so it would likely not outlive them – they didn’t want to put the burden of caring for her on their children. It was the responsible thing to do, but it also broke my heart.

    • Mel
      December 28, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      Did you say a 1500% increase??? Holy cow Amy! That’s amazing!

      I am hoping the same. I am seeing more and more pets being treated as a member of the family, which is encouraging because like you said, it may mean less dumping of older dogs at shelters. I certainly hope so anyways.

      I also agree that in this economy people are having to make difficult choices. It’s sad. I hope and pray that I am never in that position. it scares me to think I might be one day.

      I admire your great aunt and uncle for choosing an older dog. I have often thought about that actually. I’ve alway worried about elderly folks getting puppies just because I worry what will happen to them if that person dies, but I also believe that being old should not exclude you from pet ownership. How sad that they had to make that a consideration when getting a dog, but I admire them for thinking about it.

  14. December 28, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Edie made some good points about the similarities between dumping elderly pets and elderly parents. It’s hard to say what’s going on in a person’s brain. They could be a coward, they could be well-intentioned, they could just be entirely clueless. When I think about my parents getting older, I am not sure what I will or will not be able to do.

    But then again, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t just put them in the first nursing home I see and never again return, which is kind of what people do by surrendering senior pets to a shelter. If I felt myself incapable of taking care of an elderly dog, I would have some serious decisions to make, depending on the dog’s quality of life. But none of those decisions would involve dropping Fluffy off and driving away. People don’t do that to pets they love. There is always another solution.

    • Mel
      December 28, 2011 at 12:48 PM

      Very thoughtful response Kristine. I agree with you about there being other solutions.

  15. December 28, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    I just wanted to thank you for this post because it reminded me to get our foster application in with Old Dog Haven, a rescue group in our area that specializes in older dogs. Of course, the response from the rescue was that the holidays are a terrible time for older pets and they expect to be contacting us as soon as next week with a possible match.
    I actually love older dogs, both their mellowness and their crotchetiness (is that a word), and I really look forward to having one in our home to balance out our two younguns.

  16. December 28, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    It’s been a big gripe in Greyhound adoption circles for years. I know we cherished every moment we had with our grand old dame and it’s sad that many people can’t see the beauty in old age. It’s just not a part of our culture anymore, though. We dismiss the wisdom of our elders and focus all our attention on beauty and athletic prowess. We put youth on a pedestal.

    One thing I have noticed is that I think a lot of people believe that a rescue group or shelter can fix the ailments of an old dog when they don’t think they can afford to. I don’t think that makes dumping a dog okay, but I can understand the logic behind it.

  17. November 28, 2012 at 6:48 AM

    Selfishness. I’ve noticed that lots of the same people who abandon their cats at an advanced age are the same people who declawed. It’s all about them, their furniture, their image, their convenience. I have known of people who got cats specifically to match the furniture. Guess what happens when they change furniture? I know this post is about dogs but it’s basically the same thing.

    • Mel
      November 28, 2012 at 7:17 AM

      Yes it is the same thing Stefani.

  18. Flobow
    March 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    When we don’t have dogs anymore, I think I will start taking in ONLY ELDER DOGS like I will be by then until I physically can’t care for them anymore! If I had the “wherewithal” I would set up a foundation/home for older dogs only! Just like our “old throw away humans” do our old dogs deserve LOVE too! We live in one sick society who doesn’t care a “hang” so often about those who are older whether they have two or four legs!

    • Mel
      March 24, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      You and I think alike Flo. I would love to run a sanctuary for older dogs too. My last dog, Aspen, I adopted at age 9. Still miss her.

  19. Jo Lucas
    March 29, 2013 at 1:51 AM

    Omg – we are going to see family in a couple of months. I have a very elderly, arthritic 15 year old dog, whom we love, who still digs her way around the yard, loves to go on her short walks, and is happy to see us. We are going to board her during our 6 day trip. She doesn’t like to leave her home, we know this will be unpleasant to her, but we would have had to stay in town for the last 5 years. Someone who commented above considers this elder abuse and thinks we should put her to sleep instead? What the heck?

    • Mel
      March 29, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      Ick! Someone said that? I am so sorry. I completely disagree.

      Can I offer you another option to consider though? A professional pet sitter.

      I used to be one and I often cared for the more senior dogs because their families felt they would be less stressed and less uncomfortable if they could stay at home and be cared for there. I can’t tell you how many times my clients told me how much happier they seemed when they came home.

      If it is not an option, then I think boarding is fine. I would never consider it abuse.

    • Angie West
      March 20, 2015 at 12:45 PM

      I leave my 15 yrs old boy in boarding at my vet’s office 2 weeks out of the year when I go on vacation. I would never put him down instead of leaving him. I figure, if he gets sick my vet can tend to him. All he does is sleep, eat and poop mostly. So he doesn’t mind the kennel. I make sure he has his blanket to lie on in his cage. It has my smell on it also. I am sure that helps him.

      • Aliesha B
        June 23, 2015 at 5:28 PM

        I have a 10 year old golden retriever and when we go on vacations, we have to board her. We can’t affo the largest cage but we do get her the second largest one and I even take the time to sleep on a separate blanket and pillow to give her. Sometimes I feel that are options are a big cage or a smaller one. What I do feel bad about is when people board multiple animals in the same SMALL cage because it is cheaper. No no no.

      • Mel
        June 24, 2015 at 6:16 AM

        I can see where that would be bad. I cannot imagine my two Shelties being boarded separate from one another, but I think crowding them into one cage would be hard.

      • Aliesha B
        June 23, 2015 at 5:30 PM

        I’m sorry if my comment sounds off. I forgot to reread it.

  20. Rosie
    July 5, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    Im sorry i just read people comment saying ‘they would cut the people out of their life immediately or this is such a horrible thing to do’ most of you people don’t know what is going on with the owner of those elder dogs or any dogs at all. I’m not saying don’t have opinion but when you do have an open mind about it. some of the owner could have a short time to live and want to give their dogs a chance to find a home for them.

  21. July 14, 2014 at 3:16 AM

    I am a Social Worker in charge of a 192 unit Senior Community. I have witnessed many having to give their dogs up for adoption, die or have to move to a nursing home. Most we’re had real issues and loved their dogs to death a few could careless. I am in my 30’s and seen many senior dogs in the shelters, but I could not adopt one myself. The reason is watching my senior blind, diabetic (insulin & all) and most awesome beagle named “Chunk” wriggle on the floor with seizures through the night until I came to the conclusion that I did not want to consciously believe and put him to sleep)was really hard for me and my family. Maybe when I am older, more time on my hands, but still have a 15 year old Lab who’s time is coming and know it will really affect my wife (truly her dog). I am glad people do adopt senior dogs.

  22. Angie West
    March 20, 2015 at 12:39 PM

    Never in my life would I take a dog of mine at any age to a shelter. They are my family. I have had 3 dogs that I have had to put down. I stayed in the room petting them or holding their faces in my hand while the got their final shot They could see me sobbing, but I always have said that,I will be the last face they see b4 they go to the Rainbow Bridge. I have a dog now that will be 15 in less than 2 weeks. I will do the same for him, when that dreadful day gets here.

  23. Dina
    April 2, 2015 at 2:45 AM

    The day before yesterday I had to surrender my car to the shelter and this is my story.

    I got infected with ringworm at the end January, and I treated it with over the counter antifungal, then it cured. Around three weeks ago I got the ringworm on my face again and I was wondering how this could happen. I looked up on the internet and said that cats are potential carriers of the ringworm spores, then I checked my cat for any visible lesions and she actually had some between her belly fur. I soon as I knew I disinfected my room and washed all bedding daily with hot water and used bleach for all. Then I secluded my cat in the room and ordered sulfur dips, ketoconazole shampoo. While waiting for the stuff to reach my home, I was cleaning of her belly with with vinegar(claimed to be good against fungus).

    Also, I took my cat to the vet for some other reason (watery eyes) around the same time I got the ringworm for the first time(January 24 2015)and the Vet told me Abby was a healthy cat while looking at my Abby’s hair.

    So, this is why I had to gave her up.
    I rent a room at family’s house and they also have dog. I got concerned about them getting the ringworm since I got it myself or the dog getting infected. Ringworm is very contagious disease and the ringworm spores( which cats carry almost in all their body)can live in the environment up to 18 months. So, I talked to my renter and she told me that she didn’t care about my cat being sick but they would care about them getting infected. I just didn’t know what to think about this, I wouldn’t care being infected for the sake of my cat while she had heal, but at this case I had to take other people’s health into consideration.

    Then I called the shelter and they told me that if I surrender my Abby I couldn’t get her back. So, after thinking about and crying about it too, had to leave her at the shelter.

    I, as a pet owner I recognize being irresponsable for not being informed about the diseases my cat could carry. If I knew that she had this since I got her (July of 2014) probably I wouldn’t had to gave her up because back those days I had my apartment and she could get cured there without problem. Also, I recognize that I got her pet insurance when I knew she was infected(In case of a future illness) but why didn’t I got it before something could happen to her?
    That is a bad move from my side, I accept that.

    Right now , I don’t feel sorry myself, because the one who might be suffering right now is her. She could be crying on a cage, or waiting for someone to pet her or give her love. She might be confused and wondering around for my presence.

    And right now all I can do is to call the shelter every day to see how is she doing because they won’t let me see her.

    I miss her my cat, not having my Abby is like feeling incomplete.

  24. Dina
    April 2, 2015 at 3:03 AM

    Oh, also I wouldn’t mind how much money I would have to pay to get her treated or the time it would take for her to heal. When I moved out of my apartment I lost all of my deposit money( 500 dlls)because the landlord claimed that the carpet wasn’t completely free of my Abby’s hair when I left the house( just an excuse for him to get my money, because I vacuumed and cleaned the carpet very well before leaving). I got Abby when their original owners moved out of the state and have her to my friends. My friends couldn’t keep her because they have too many dogs and cats already and asked me to take her, thing I didn’t want to because I believed I didn’t like cats. But Abby took my heart from the first time I got to know her. She is very friendly and would sit in any person’s lap it she is allowed her to. Then, she would wait for me every night at door when coming back from work.

    I miss her so much.

  25. May 29, 2015 at 6:26 PM

    I’m so upset at my sister and brother in law because they recently downgraded to an apartment and now their dog isn’t a commodity anymore. They were going to take him to a shelter. Who’s going to adopt a 15 year old dog? I’m mad at them too because they keep the dog inside all day I think he knows they don’t want him anymore. He just lays there, won’t eat… won’t poop. It sad. Well i recently had to put my 16 year old dog down. She had cancer, developed a tumor the size of a golf ball within 3 days, she couldn’t breathe or eat anymore. So I will be taking their dog and give him the end of life with humans who will cherish him in his senior life.

  26. May 29, 2015 at 6:30 PM

    I could never do that. I am upset at my sister and brother in law because they wanted to take their senior dog to a shelter (a kill one) he’s 16… they will kill him. I had to put my beloved dog down she developed cancer and a huge tumor on her neck within 3 days. She couldn’t eat or breathe so I had to put her down. I’m taking over their dog because it breaks my heart that after 16 year they will dump him at a shelter. Who does that? He will live his end of days with me now.

    • Mel
      June 2, 2015 at 6:46 AM

      Thank goodness! I am so glad there are people like you out there. Lucky dog now!

  27. Robb
    May 19, 2016 at 1:49 AM

    When i was A teenager a friend of my dads went through a horrible divorce, she took everything but his his car and his dog. He was literally living in his car with his 13YO lab named Woody, he was gonna take him to a shelter until my old man found out, we babysat that ol dog for three years until the guy got on his feet again, he came and picked up every week though, when he finally left the house my lab was devastated. Soooo we got a puppy.

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