Senior pets find homes with senior citizens

by Gillian King

Imagine being in the final years of your life and not having a place to call home. Think of being completely alone without any family or anyone who loves or cares for you. Think of what it would be like to have no control over your own future. That is the predicament that homeless pets find themselves in every day, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay in this situation forever.

Organizations such as the Humane Society of Utah have an abundance of homeless pets awaiting adoption and the majority are senior pets. The society has come up with a way to help these seniors find a home, though. Placing Animals with Loving Seniors, or P.A.L.S., is a program implemented by the Humane Society that was developed to help find homes for the senior cats and dogs that fill the shelter.

Senior citizens, defined by the Humane Society as persons 65 and older, can adopt senior cats or dogs, age 2 or older, for a discounted adoption fee. Dogs are $25 each and cats are free. This helps raise the probability these animals will be able to find a forever home with a loving person.

The animals aren’t the only ones seeing a benefit from this program. Placing senior pets with senior citizens gives both parties the interaction and companionship they may otherwise be lacking. According to Amber Hansen, an adoption counselor with the Humane Society, many seniors are wary of the program because they don’t want to worry about chasing down a new pet or bother with cleaning up after it or having to train it, issues that may be less likely with an older pet.

“The program is a benefit to seniors because the animal already is who they are going to be,” Hansen said. She added that senior citizens often don’t have the energy or patience to adopt a younger animal, such as a puppy or kitten. Adopting a pet that has already been housebroken and grown out of its juvenile phase is a perfect fit.

Not only does the individual adopting the pet gain companionship, but there are also health benefits to having a pet.

“We have people come in with prescriptions (for a pet) from their doctors,” said Mary Rancipher, an adoption counselor with the Humane Society. She said people with conditions such as bipolar disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder often come in looking for companion animals at the request of their doctor.

“Having something they can focus their attention on and have love them unconditionally provides huge health benefits,” Rancipher said. She should know. She has her own companion animal to help her with her needs. When her pet went missing she described herself as going “nuts” without it.

The health benefits from owning a pet are well documented. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a person’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness can all be decreased by owning a pet.

Groups such as the Delta Society are dedicated to the ideal that animals can help improve a person’s health and emotional well-being.

“People are healthier and happier because companion, service and therapy animals enrich and positively impact their everyday lives,” their Web site states.

Whether it is at the behest of a doctor for health benefits or simply for a little companionship at home, the Humane Society’s P.A.L.S. program can help seniors find a senior pet that complements them and their situation. For more information on the P.A.L.S. program and for a complete listing of animals, visit the Humane Society online or in person at at 4242 S. 300 West in Murray.