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Finding a pet the right home is a tough job—just ask the dedicated staff that runs Scituate Animal Shelter. The pets that come through their doors are of all ages and conditions—some hungry, some in need of healing, some simply in need of love.
However, the team at the Scituate Animal Shelter believes that every animal, no matter their age or limitations, deserves to find a good home with the perfect owner—and they take extra steps in their adoption process to ensure a perfect fit.
First, every animal that arrives at the shelter is made up-to-date on the necessary vaccinations to help them get off on the right paw.
After their medical exam, both dogs and cats are given a comprehensive behavior evaluation to give a sense of the animals’ preferences and temperament. Are they good with other pets? What’s their energy level? Do they behave well around kids? All these answers are sought to help the shelter understand what type of home would be best for each animal.
With all this information on-file, Scituate requests anyone who comes in looking to adopt also fills out a personal questionnaire.
“We have people come and fill out what we call a ‘matchmaker survey’,” said Ashley Davis, director of the Scituate Animal Shelter. “We’re trying to match the type of home with what pet might be best for them, rather than people coming in and just picking blindly out of looks.”
The matchmaker system works well not only because it helps find the perfect pet-and-owner relationship, but also because it leads to people meeting animals they never would have considered on their own—like senior pets and ones with special needs.
In 2015, Scituate Animal Shelter placed 440 animals in new homes, 20% of which were seniors of seven years or older or had special needs, meaning they had behavioral problems or complex medical conditions. Like Winnie the pit bull.
Last year, Winnie was found abandoned on the side of a highway. She was elderly, ill, and had a large, visible tumor on her abdomen. Many shelters consider pit bulls to be a tough sale on their own, so adding an illness and old age on top of that would have been a no-go—but not for Scituate Animal Shelter. They nursed Winnie back to health and were eventually able to find her a new home with a loving family.
In the past three years, the Scituate Animal Shelter has seen the adoption of older pets rise over 300 percent, which shouldn’t be surprising considering owning an older animal comes with plenty of upsides.
“We find that people are very open to the idea of owning a senior pet,” said Davis. “They tend to be more settled, house-trained, are generally easygoing, and are oftentimes up-to-date on all their teeth cleanings and medications.”
For some pet owners, finding an older pet gives them a chance to have the companion they never realized they could have. Like what happened to Jimmy.
After his fourth dog passed away, Jimmy, a longtime Scituate resident, decided not to adopt again at the age of 84. Instead, he called Scituate Animal Shelter hoping to volunteer. He was asked to transport two dogs from another shelter in Massachusetts to Scituate, and was happy to help. After the dogs were dropped off safely, the shelter asked if they could name one of the dogs Jimmy after their transporter. He graciously obliged.
A few short days later, Jimmy (the human) was assigned to walk Jimmy (the dog) and they bonded instantly. The dog’s age was estimated at 12 years—an age Jimmy felt comfortable with—and so the dog came home with him. After almost two years together, Jimmy said, “He has proven to be a gentle soul and a wonderful companion. I don’t want to think of life without him and I will be forever grateful to the Scituate Animal Shelter for bringing us together.”
More than just working at an animal shelter, the team at Scituate likes to think of itself as a community resource. They offer low-cost spay and neuter services and run a feral cat program. They visit local schools to teach students about the work they do and how to interact with animals. Most notably, they oversee a pet food pantry and HELP fund, which cares for and feeds the pets of senior citizens and disabled community members who are experiencing financial hardships.
They provide services and assistance to pet owners, as well as people who are not sure where else to turn. Above all, they are in business for the well being of the animals.
“We never want people to feel helpless; we always want people to know that we’re here no matter what,” said Davis.
With such a strong reputation for generous care and an unwavering love for animals, it makes sense why the folks at Scituate Animal Shelter are so passionate about what they do. It’s also easy to see how the most perfect match is actually them and the communities they serve.