Adopting a “Less Adoptable” Pet

This week happens to be Petfinder’s Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week. For those of you unfamiliar with this terrific organization, Petfinder is an online resource that showcases homeless animals from almost 14,000 shelters and rescue organizations across the United States. There’s no better way to learn about animals available for adoption in your community. In fact, my family found Quinn, the newest canine member of our tribe via Petfinder!

Every year Petfinder devotes a week to showcasing those animals who are deemed to be “less adoptable”. On average, these animals wait for a home nearly four times longer than the more adoptable pets. In fact, sometimes the wait is more than two years! Why are these animals being overlooked? Senior dogs and cats are notoriously more difficult to place. Those who are fearful or shy, dogs and cats with all black haircoats, and animals with specific behavioral or medical needs are often less adoptable.

Even if you are not currently looking for a new family member, I encourage you to spend a few minutes viewing this year’s Less Adoptable Gallery. You will find photos of each animal accompanied by their stories, some of which are sad, but all of which are interesting. For example, there is Gramms, the dog featured in the photo accompanying this blog. As Petfinder tells us:

Gramms is a sweet, loving 12-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer. She spent many years hunting by her owner’s side, only to be turned in to the shelter after she couldn’t hunt anymore. Now, she is looking for a safe, loving home to retire at. She is happy, a little feisty when she doesn’t get her way and loves to nap at your feet. She has a small limp from a broken bone that was never treated, but that doesn’t stop her from playing, going for walks and sitting for treats.

Please share this gallery with all of your animal loving family and friends to help make this year’s Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week a rip roaring success!

Have you ever adopted a “less adoptable” pet? If so, please tell us all about him or her.

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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12 Comments on “Adopting a “Less Adoptable” Pet

  1. The Story of Winslow:

    We had lost our Irish Setter, it had been a couple of years and I was requesting a new dog. My husband was adamant. He saw how hurt I was at the death of our 15 year old Setter.
    I was looking on local shelter sights and found a pit bull that was deaf. I wanted to go see him. My husband said that I was nuts. First of all he is a pitbull and secondly he is deaf! After several days, we went to see the dog. He had been quarantined by the facility for biting someone. I thought my dreams of another dog were gone.
    The gentleman at the shelter, told us of a woman who rescued pitbulls in Rochester,NY. I immediately got her name and how to contact her. I did contact her and she told me of a Pitbull at a local veterinarian. He had been brought there by a local dog warden. He had been wandering the streets of Rochester.
    This is how Winslow came into our lives. Upon meeting him, I sat on the floor and he sat on my lap and dropped the ball in my lap that he had been playing with. Winslow was also white and deaf. Needless to say, I fell in love. My husband was still leery of a deaf pitbull. We went home and did research on pitbulls and found that they are the most misunderstood breed. There are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners.
    Winslow did come home with us after a couple of weeks. He was part of our family for 14 years. He was definitely the good will ambassador for the breed. He went to many schools and when he died, he knew 25-30 signs (ASL).
    He definitely lived life to the fullest and travelled all over with us. He went to NYC with us, Florida several times, and Pennsylvania. He was always up for a ride somewhere even if it was down the road and back.
    Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my buddy. He was very special in more ways then one.
    Marianne D. Negley
    February 2010

  2. As a rescuer who runs Daphneyland the basset rescue ranch, this last weekend was amazing! We adopted out 5 less adoptable hounds – (I prefer the term “Special Placements”) they were: Rocky & Molly (both had health issues), Wilson – a high energy not yet socialized puppy, Poppy Bardot – a senior gal who’s problem is throwing herself bellyup at every glance and Dakota – who is afraid of small children. Amazing homes each and every one of them! Kudo’s to Petfinder for bringing the awareness that a perfect fit, may not be a perfect companion! These adoptions have opened the spot for another set of needy hounds to take their places! Keep on adopting!

  3. Both of my boys are “less-adoptable” … Bless is a senior dog, part chihuahua-part pug. He’s been a blessing, truly.

    Sebastian was attacked by a random dog and lost an eye. He’s a perfectly wonderful minpin, and silly fun to have around. Both came to me via the wonderful people at the American Humane Society.

    I wouldn’t have the lovely companionship of these amazing dogs if I had been overlooking anyone when I wanted to adopt.

  4. Deanna, I am so very sorry for the loss of your sweet little girl. We too adopted a senior girl 5 years ago. She is an English cocker spaniel and at 17 is still doing well. It is amazing how much the old ones can bring to the relationship. They are so wise and so thankful to be finally “home”. She came with some skian and health issues but working through them and getting her back to good health only deepend the bond. The time with them is never enough and adopting a senior is even harder but I would never change a minute of the time we have had with our Jersey!

  5. Nearly two years ago, I fostered and adopted a “less adoptable” pup. To look at him with his insane puppy cuteness, you’d think he’d be snatched up by any number of people as soon as they saw him. Problem was, he was feral and terrified of everyone and everything. He’s still afraid of most people and a lot of things (wind blowing through leaves can cause him to shut down completely) but he’s one of the smartest, sweetest pups I ever met. I still have to go slowly with him, but he’s gaining confidence by learning to herd sheep and we recently started private agility lessons. I’m always amazed by what scares him and what doesn’t. I’ve learned so much from my little boy, and every day I’m glad he chose me.

  6. Thanks, Dr. Kay, for making the plight of the almost forgotten less-adoptable pets more well known. I think lots of people get starry-eyed and lose some sense of reality when faced with an adorable kitten or puppy at the shelter (or worse still – at the pet store).

    The amount of time spent training and cleaning up after a young cat or dog can be significant, while adopting an older pet can in many cases be seamless (after an adjustment period). I have done it a few times and I think it is a much richer and more satisfying experience than adopting a puppy or kitten. (Don’t get me wrong – nothing better than puppy breath! :) )

  7. All my dogs are “less adoptable”! They are the most fun :-)
    Little Fox is a Siberian who I was told was 2 years old; but going over her paperwork after we got home, I realized she was 11 months! I was the 8th home she had been in, in her short life. She had been returned several times for being destructive; by the time I got her, she had full blown separation anxiety. It took us months to work through that. She is the most wonderful and amazing girl I know.
    Arctic was deemed unadoptable at the pound. When I met her, she just shook with fear and wouldn’t look at me. I took her into rescue, and fell in love. It took her a year to like anyone other than me; but after a year, ahe became the official greeter of humans at the dog park! We adored each other; cancer took her from me.
    Patticake was a 10 year old dump from a breeder who had no further use for her. She has been with me for almost 3 years; she still doesn’t like anyone other than me, but no one in my life has ever looked at me with the depth of love I see in her eyes. The look on her face the first time we went to the beach and she got to run free was priceless.

    PolaBear had been confiscated from her owner; I’m sure it was for neglect since she does not act like she has ever been abused. She was so matted, we had to shave her, and it triggered a genetic defect sometimes found in Northern Breed dogs, and her coat never came back. She was completely bald for over a year; now she has patchy fur that mats instantly, so I keep her coat short. Pola was extremely heartworm positive, had growths on her tail, and the worst ear infection I’ve ever seen. PolaBear is the cutest dog I’ve ever seen in my life, and is unbelievably sweet. She makes my life so much richer!
    True Blue was a severely abused dog who was 10 when he was saved and I fell in love with him. He is my Zen Master, always in the moment and happy.
    The “less adoptables” are where the most amazing treasures are found! And when you bring them home, they are well aware of what you have done for them, and who you really are :-)

  8. Pheona and Noel came to live with us (Jake, 14 and Caty 12) when they were turned in to Placerville Animal Control at age 10!!! They are truly seniors now at nearly 14 and love their new brother Dodger who came to live with us when he was 7 or 8 after being picked up as a stray in Sacramento. My life is so full with these wonderful companions and they are all spoiled rotten. They also love their two kitties. Elders ROCK.

  9. As one of the many professionals who work with families post adoption, I would encourage you to take behaviourally at risk dogs OFF your list of recommended pets. Why? Because the distress that they go through and that they cause the families who adopt them is inhumane. Yes, there are some behaviourally at risk dogs who may make good pets, but every year I work with dogs adopted out of local shelters with serious agggression and other behaviour problems. I worked with a dog recently who had such severe OCD that he was underweight from staring at clouds in the sky, ceiling fans and reflections on the ceiling. This dog was being traumatized all the time because of his behaviour problem, and the rescue that adopted him out knew about the problem. This problem cost the owners thousands of dollars in care and drugs, and the dog months if not years of discomfort and distress. I have had four dogs on my case load this year who have been euthanized because they have injured the new owners who purchased them from rescues in the hopes of helping an animal and enhancing their lives. As it turned out, they ended up with injuries, stress and a dead dog on their hands. I am currently working with a dozen more dogs on my caseload who should never have been adopted out. Only fifteen percent of my behaviour caseload comes from breeders; the other 85% comes from rescues or shelters. Behaviour is something we don’t do well enough in the shelter and rescue world and we need to start understanding that in some cases, love is not nearly enough. Adopting out dogs with serious behaviour problems is like adopting out a dog with a broken leg and not alerting the new family that they will be looking at thousands of dollars of surgery and months of rehab, and it just isn’t okay.

    Sue Alexander CPDT-KSA, CDBC, CBCC-KA
    Dogs in the Park
    Guelph, Ontario

  10. Five years ago, I fostered and adopted a “Less Adoptable Pet” from ACS – she was an emaciated, barely 4lb, 10 year old toy poodle mix. She was scared, not house-trained, didn’t know how to eat out of a bowl (I think food was just tossed loose into her crate whenever her previous owners remembered to feed her). She didn’t even “present” well so that she could get adopted. She stayed huddled in her little crate for days, trembled when petted as if she’d never known a loving touch. I gave her the time she needed to learn to trust me and to know she was now safe. She learned to go potty outside within a few weeks and to use the doggie door when I wasn’t home. When I was home, she would stand in front of the door and “command” me to let her out. She became a beautiful 7lb pampered princess who came to expect only the best life could offer and not remember the life she had left behind. Many people will not adopt senior dogs because “they won’t be with me that long and it would break my heart” – so the seniors get passed over again and again. Loa passed away last night after a very short 5 years with me. Yes, I would have loved to have had her for all 16 years of her life, but I am grateful for the years she graced my life and for the joy she brought me by her presence and her beautiful spirit. I will miss her and she has left a big hole in my heart – but my life would have been missing out on what she contributed to my life if I had not taken her in because of my own selfish needs to have a pet bonded from puppyhood. Loa made a difference in my life and I made a difference in hers. I am sharing these personal thoughts and my deep grief in the hopes that some of you will consider being courageous enough to adopt a senior or special needs pet in the near future and to make a profound difference in the quality of their final years. Only you have the power to be a hero for these overlooked, yet very worthy pets. Thanks.

  11. Thank you for highlighting “less adoptable” dogs. I am the President of Blind Dog Rescue Alliance. We rescue and rehome blind and visually impaired dogs. While we don’t view blind dogs as less adoptable, I know many people do. I think most people are surprised at how happy and confident and adaptable our blind dogs are.