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More Than Meets the Eye

September 16, 2011

By Brianne Harrison Moore

Back when I was volunteering with SAVE, an animal shelter in Princeton, we had a wonderful dog named Sheba. She was sweet and affectionate, and we all loved her. She was also a pitbull, and because of that, she lingered at the shelter long after the lab mixes and puppies were adopted out. People would shy away from her when we took her out for adoption days, as if they thought she might suddenly attack, even though she was sitting calmly and never showed any signs of aggression.

Sheba’s story has a happy ending—she eventually found a family that adopted her and took her to a loving home, but too many other animals deemed “less adoptable” meet grim fates. It’s not just pitbulls that feel the discrimination, either. Large black dogs, FIV+ cats, senior pets, and special-needs animals are often “left on the shelf” in favor of other animals.

To raise awareness of these animals, Petfinder.com (whose president and co-founder is a New Jersey native) launched Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week, which runs from September 17-25. The website is urging people to consider the “less desirable” animals when considering adoption, and they’ve included a gallery of pets from around the country who are looking for homes. There are also stories of special-needs animals that made wonderful pets, including Lily, a bull mastiff who doesn’t let blindness slow her down, and Bullet, a cat who had a leg amputated but still loves watching the birds at the feeders and playing with her canine “brothers”.

Appearances can be deceiving. That big, black dog could very well end up being a teddy bear (and probably is). The cat with one eye stitched shut probably wants to curl up with you more than anything. That senior pet will probably be less trouble than a puppy, since it’s more likely to be calmer and already housebroken. Many of those “less adoptable” animals are proving to be stars in the therapy world: there’s a one-eyed dog who visits elementary schools to help children with their reading and pitbulls being trained in Canine Good Citizenship so they can visit nursing homes and bring comfort to the residents. So, if you’re looking for a pet to add to your family, don’t just latch onto the cute puppies or kittens. Give some of the other, perhaps less pretty animals a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Mark Your Calendars:

Coalition for Animals and Seer Farms’ Pet Festival is this Saturday at Unionville Vineyards in Ringoes. The festival will feature wine tastings, “Ask the Vet” seminar, book signings, and live music. The event raises money to help families with financial difficulties keep their pets. Visit coalitionforanimals.org for more info.

Eleventh Hour Rescue will host its 7th Annual Puptoberfest on September 24 at the Craigmeur Recreation Complex in Rockaway. The fun-filled day will feature food, music, vendors, and contests for both kids and dogs. Admission is $5 for individuals, $10 per family, free for past adopters.

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