Remember the scene in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer where Rudolph, Hermey the Elf and Yukon Cornelius find themselves on the Island of Misfit toys? While there, they find an elephant with spots, a train with square wheels, a kite afraid of heights and many other “misfits”. Each of these misfit toys wishes to finally find a home with their own little boy or girl to love. Ultimately, due to the kindness and concern shown by Rudolph and his entourage, Santa does indeed find homes for the Misfit Toys. In the world of pet rescue, wouldn’t it be nice if that wish could be granted to all pets? Not only the cute, healthy and playful kittens and puppies, but any pet regardless of age, color, or health status?

The third week in September marks the observance of “Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week”. The week puts pets with special needs, or perceived inadequacies, into the spotlight. This special week helps people understand that these animals may fit perfectly well into their lives and have much to offer by way of providing companionship and unconditional love.

It’s Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week, and LVC lists all the reasons you should consider adopting a less adoptable pet!

Consider the statistics:

Sometimes numbers tell us a story in a way that words cannot. A survey conducted by found that those pets deemed “less adoptable” spent four times longer on their website than those that were considered adoptable. Many rescues have reported some pets waiting for one, even two years or more before finding a home. Some of the main reasons for a pet being considered unadoptable include being a senior pet, having medical or behavioral issues, being of a certain breed, and believe it or not…coat color! In fact, black dogs and cats are far less likely to be adopted than other colors. The reason why is not known for sure, but some people may consider them more threatening, less photogenic, and associated with unflattering folklore. Whatever the reason may be, the statistic is just sad.

Why pets considered less adoptable may just be perfect for you:

The senior pet or pet with medical problems:

Puppies and kittens are so cute and so much fun. Let us not forget, however, that they take a tremendous amount of work and energy to entertain and train. In fact, many of our doctors have joked with puppy owners during early vaccine visits, “Isn’t it funny how we forget how much energy puppies have?”.

All joking aside, the reality is that many people just don’t have the time to house-train, crate-train, and properly socialize young pets. There is nothing wrong with admitting this as a pet owner, but it doesn’t mean you should not consider pet adoption. Senior pets have so much to give their owners and many do not require your engagement in those time-consuming essential puppy tasks such as housebreaking. Senior pets are calmer and may require less exercise to burn off excess energy, making them ideal for people who like to spend more time indoors or cannot themselves engage in significant physical activity.

The ASPCA Rehoming Study 2015 has suggested that up to 26% of pets are relinquished to shelters due to the pet having medical issues. Although you will need to keep an eye on these issues, many medical conditions do not necessarily preclude the pet from having a high quality of life. Arthritis can be managed; conditions such as diabetes and heart disease require special attention and monitoring, but your LVC doctors and nurses are here to help navigate your senior or special needs pet’s care. Imagine the satisfaction you will find knowing your kindness and attention gave a pet with medical issues the care it needs to live as long as possible with grace, dignity and comfort.

One thing to keep in mind when adopting a special needs pet is the fact that some diseases may be expensive to treat and may require lifelong treatment. Be honest about your financial situation, the time you have to take a pet to the veterinarian for checkups, and your willingness and ability to give daily medications such as insulin or pain medication.

The pet with behavioral issues:

According to the 2015 ASPCA National Rehoming Study, the most common pet-related behavioral reasons for rehoming were aggression (35%) and destructive behaviors (29%). Although sometimes challenging, pets with behavioral issues often make excellent companions in the appropriate home. If you plan to share your home with only one pet at a time, a dog or cat with known aggression toward other animals may safely and happily live in your single-pet home for years. Cats and dogs showing destructive behavior may simply be bored. Giving these pets appropriate environmental enrichment, attention and exercise often results in a dramatic decrease in such behaviors.

Many pets relinquished to shelters have never had basic obedience training. If you have time to train these pets using positive reinforcement and working closely with a good trainer, you will likely see a huge improvement in their interactions with you. They can develop better impulse control and basic manners as a result of consistent, kind training. Certain behavioral issues require behavior-modifying medications, specialized behavioral modification techniques, and the input of a specialist in veterinary behavior. These pets are simultaneously rewarding and challenging. To adopt such a pet, an honest assessment of your available time, personal interest in animal behavior, and dedication to training are essential. A list of recommended trainers and behaviorists may be found here: Dog Training LVC.

The pet of a less desirable color or breed:

As discussed earlier, black dogs and cats are adopted with less frequency than other colors. Numerous members of our Longwood Veterinary Center staff have black dogs and cats and believe us…they are some of the best pets we have ever shared our lives with. Pit Bulls and Bully mixes are one of the most commonly found dog breeds in shelters. Due to their history as a breed used for dog fighting, they have gained a reputation as an aggressive dog not suitable for rehoming. Many of our staff personally own Pitbulls and Pitbull mixes. Our collective experience, with few exceptions, is that they are a wonderful breed and make excellent companions. As with any dog breed, genetics, early socialization, and the quality of interactions with humans play a significant role in personality, aggressive traits, and suitability as a family pet. Poor socialization and early trauma can make any breed of dog fearful, hesitant of strangers, and aggressive. Read the ASPCA’s statement on Bully breeds here: ASPCA Pitbulls.

We hope this blog has convinced you of the benefits of considering one of the “less adoptable pets” found in many animal shelters and rescues. If you need more proof to convince you of how wonderful these pets can be, just have a look at some of the pets our staff have rescued over the years:

Andrea and Mongo: Pitbull with urinary issues
Dr. Strine and Oscar: surgical resection of his lower jaw as a young puppy
Dr. McCabe: At least three senior kitties
Carolina and Athena: Pitbull
Dana M and Tiger: Senior kitty with diabetes
Dr. Parsons and Kitty Puppy: Black mix breed with hind limb paralysis/weakness
Dr. Katie and Chance: Mix breed dog with neurologic issues
Lisa H and Shasta: Kitty hit by a car with no use of her back legs

And there will be many more in our (and hopefully your) future!

Written by: Dr. Corrina Snook Parsons VMD, DACVIM (LA)