This question was raised recently in a Psychology Today article, in which psychologist and all-around dog man Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., challenged the decision of certain animal shelters not to adopt pets out to older Americans. This policy is a shame, considering some of the stories we hear of people with age-related diseases improving when with their pets and older individuals feeling less lonely and less stressed when living with a dog.

The shelters’ stance? Elderly individuals are more likely to pass away before the dog, requiring the dog to be rehomed again, and elderly individuals may be too fragile to care for the dog.

Coren, who lectures on the psychological and physical benefits that dogs and cats provide for seniors, disagrees. To corroborate his argument he cited a study recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

The study examined the behaviors of three groups of people in two Italian towns: Adults (ages 18 to 64) living in rural and suburban areas, elderly individuals (65+) living in rural and suburban areas, and elderly individuals living in downtown areas. The findings showed that not only did pets living with elderly individuals not suffer, but the ones living in city areas also actually received more and better veterinary care than the dogs in other groups.

The author summarized:

“Basically there is little or no difference in the care and welfare of dogs owned by elderly individuals compared to the general adult population. If anything a dog who was lucky enough to have been adopted by an elderly person living in the center of an urban area is likely to be better loved and better cared for than if it were adopted by an adult living in a rural or suburban setting.” 

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