Are Some Rescue Policies Ageist?

When we adopted Lucky and Ochi, we had some specific criteria in our search. We were primarily focused on:

  • a rescue within a two-hour driving radius of our home
  • a kitten between four and six months old (we wanted one young enough to not be seen as any kind of threat to the other cats but old enough to be able to jump out of the way of our dogs, in case they got a little energetic. As it turned out, our dogs were the ones jumping out of the way of the kitten each time!)
  • shelters and rescues that had already tested cats for FeLV and FIV

We started on Petfinder then began working our way through area rescues each time. In the case of both adoptions, we came across one rescue that had kittens just the right age. They met all our criteria. Unfortunately, John didn’t meet theirs.

In their adoption policies, they stated:

“If you are over 55, we require a devise in your will or proof of your plan for your animals’ future should you predecease them.”

Well, we have a plan for our pets with our family but we didn’t have time to go to an attorney and have this added to our will to show the rescue. Instead, we went to a different shelter and adopted.

Are age restrictions like this common sense or is they an example of ageism?

Let’s be clear: we think everyone—regardless of age—should have a plan for what will happen to their animals in the event the pets outlive the people. Whether you’re 20 or 90, terrible, unexpected tragedies occur daily. Pet lovers with every intention of providing a forever home sadly never have the chance because forever is finite for all of us.

Every pet parent needs a plan for their pets in the event the cats and other pets survive longer than the people (a reason that sadly sends many pets to shelters, when family members can’t or don’t want to care for pets). And, with some pets, especially birds like large Macaws and Cockatoos which can live 80 years or more, you definitely need a pet trust in place.

But, let’s be honest: death is just one of many reasons that pets find themselves in shelters. Other major life changes frequently result in rehoming or surrender of family pets. Divorce. Marriage. A job transfer. A new baby. Sadly, each of these reasons are given every day when pets are surrendered to shelters.

Should rescues ask if prospective adopters are planning to have a baby? Do they have a plan in the event of pregnancy? Or what if you find yourself with a new spouse or partner in a few years? One who might not like pets? Is there a plan for that?

The issue of a maximum adoption age has made the headlines several times over the past few years. In Florida, an 81-year-old man was deemed too old to adopt two 11-month-old Chihuahua puppies. In the UK, a 71-year-old man was declared too old to offer a Lurcher an active life.

Of course, how many animals are surrendered because no one at home has time to exercise them? Or because the children, who said they’d care for the dog and have plenty of energy to provide an active life for the pet, fail to do so? Age isn’t always a guarantee of activity–and perhaps the 71-year-old potential adopter was far more active than a younger man who might spend most of his day at the computer. Everyone is an individual.

Do you think the adoption policies of some rescues are ageist?


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  1. Debbie Petch says:

    I have been researching rescue societies in Ontario, Canada. I have found many of them refusing to adopt out dogs to just about everybody but the most elite. They are demanding copies of income taxes, that you have to have a large back yard with at least a ten foot fence. People living in condos and apartments need not apply. The applicants have to supply at least 3 non related references, allow surprise inspections of their home and sign contracts promising they would feed their newly adopted dogs a raw diet only instead of dog food. I can tell you so much more. All the while insisting they are only thinking about their homeless dogs and cats. And oh, by the way, please donate as much as you can! I have adopted rescues all my life (I have 2 lovely cats now). But now it has become increasing difficult to jump through the hoops they are demanding. It is sad and discouraging to see so many dogs and cats living out their years in cages rather than find homes with people who would love and cherish them.

  2. I guess this is okay to some extent. I mean I do understand why they set these rules but I wish they had some exceptions and I wish that there were ways to bypass rules by some sort of guarantee that the animal will be treated well.

    But on another hand, these animals are in shelters anyway… Wasting resources which could be spent on new rescues. If the rules were a bit looser, more animals would be adopted and more rescues would be let inside.

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