Is Your Rescue’s Adoption Policy Ageist?

Is Your Rescue’s Adoption Policy Ageist?

By: Paris Permenter and John Bigley

As we wrote recently, last month we adopted Lucky, a five-month-old kitten. He is a great addition to our family, and just an excellent fit with us, with our other three cats, and with our two large dogs.

But our search for Lucky wasn’t without some wrong turns. We searched every rescue within a two-hour driving radius of our home, looking for a kitten between four and six months old. Our reasoning was that we wanted one young enough to not be seen as any kind of threat to our older cats but old enough to be able to jump out of the way of our dogs, if they should get rambunctious. (That turned out to be a needless worry in this case; Irie and Tiki have instead been jumping out of the way of our kitten!) 

We narrowed our search to shelters and rescues that had already tested cats for FeLV and FIV. We compiled a list of area rescues and then, one by one, began our search.

Along the way, we came across one rescue that had kittens just the right age. They met all our criteria. Unfortunately, John didn’t meet theirs.

Questionable Adoption Policy

We ran across this statement in their adoption policies: “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.” Is this common sense or is it ageism?

Now, we want to get this straight: 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. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 90, terrible tragedies happen every day. Pet lovers who have every intention of providing a forever home sadly never have the chance because forever is finite for all of us. 

All pet parents should have a plan for their pets in the event the pets survive longer than the people—a reason that many pets wind up in shelters. And, if your pets include some species—such as birds—you definitely need a pet trust in place. With large Macaws and Cockatoos living as long as eight decades, it’s of utmost importance that pet parents plan for the inevitable.

But, let’s face it: death is just one of many reasons that pets find themselves in shelters. Other major life changes all too frequently result in rehoming or surrender of family pets. Divorce. Marriage. A job transfer. A new baby. Each of these situations sadly results in many pet surrenders.

Adoption Policy: The Next Step?

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 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?

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