The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 28, 2021 1:00 am

Older pets get 2nd chance

Shelters heal them but tough to get adopted

TERRI RICHARDSON | The Journal Gazette

The furry faces stared out at me from Humane Fort Wayne's online newsletter.

Each one, their names listed under their photos, needed surgery or medications to help fix such ailments as broken legs and heartworms. The agency was asking for monetary help to aid in making them better.

I quickly realized that some of those conditions could have been death sentences for the animals just a decade ago as shelters faced a lack of resources as the pet population continued to grow.

But it appears things have shifted over the years. More donations and resources are being used to give animals that are older and with medical conditions a second chance.

And while that is a good thing, it has created another problem – finding them homes.

Jessica Henry, executive director of Humane Fort Wayne, says it is getting harder to place animals that are older or in need of medical care.

She says 10 to 12 years ago there were lots of puppies. But because of spay and neuter efforts, the number of unwanted puppies and kittens has dropped. Now, the biggest issue is people giving up their animals, Henry says.

The agency has found that most people end up surrendering their animals after about three months, and sometimes shorter than that. The biggest reasons for the surrender were because of behavioral and medical issues.

To fix that, Humane Fort Wayne, an agency resulting in the merger of the Allen County SPCA and Hope for Animals more than a year ago, created a behavioral team that includes a dog trainer, as well as a person trained in feline behavior, to work with the animals to head off problems and aid in pet retention. “We recognize in the past, animals with behavior issues were euthanized,” Henry says.

Henry realizes that for many people, it becomes hard to keep animals at home. But, if the pets stay at home, this frees up space for other animals at the shelter.

The unfortunate thing is that even with training, not many are adopting.

Henry says the rate of return is creeping up. A part of that is that she believes the pandemic threshold is high for many people and that includes animal ownership, which adds to the current stresses.

Many people home during the pandemic brought home animals, but now that they are returning to work, they are finding they can't care for the animals. So, they are taking them to the shelters.

Currently, the shelter is full. That makes it difficult to shift attention to other animals when the shelter is running out of space.

Each month, Humane Fort Wayne accepts a truckload of national transport animals. If they didn't do that, Henry knows those animals will be euthanized.

That's how the shelter got Macy.

More than a year ago, Macy, a 5-year-old paralyzed pit bull mix, came to Humane Fort Wayne from an overcrowded and underresourced shelter in Mississippi, along with her custom wheelchair. The animal had actually been in a shelter two years prior to coming to Fort Wayne.

Since that time, the dog has been in the care of a foster family and waiting for the right family to adopt. All the while she has been receiving therapy and veterinary treatment.

It's not lost on Henry or her foster parents that Macy would have never survived this long if she hadn't found her way to Fort Wayne.

In fact, this is the first dog with a wheelchair to come to the shelter as long as Henry has been there.

It's also the first foster dog for Karen Asp and Chris Pataluch. The couple have been volunteers with the Allen County SPCA and now Humane Fort Wayne for years.

It's something the couple, who have been married 26 years, do together.

The pandemic allowed Asp to take on the challenge of caring for Macy. Asp would normally be gone two to three weeks at a time because of her journalism career. But all that stopped when COVID-19 shut things down, giving her time to focus on other things. And for the past year it's been Macy.

Although Macy doesn't have the use of her back legs, she was full of energy and excitement when I came to her home. She moved pretty quickly without her wheelchair, escorting me down the hallway to the back porch that led to the yard. Later, when she was put into her wheelchair, she took off exploring.

The wheelchair is not the only limitation for Macy. She wears a diaper that must be changed after urination and she needs to be manually cleared of her waste.

But for Asp, she doesn't hesitate to tend to her needs. “It's just amazing to play this role in her life,” helping to give Macy a chance.

That's why she knows it will be hard giving Macy up when she does finally find her forever home.

Henry says the reward for adopting animals is “enormous.” She knows that shelters will always be a necessity, and she wants to give more attention to animals like Macy. However, that can't happen unless people adopt.

“At Humane Fort Wayne, we pride ourselves on doing whatever it takes to save a life. Sometimes that's simple. Sometimes it's anything but. And Macy certainly falls into the latter category,” Henry says. “We know her perfect home is out there, and we're asking for the community's help to find it.”


Terri Richardson writes about area residents and happenings that affect their lives in this column that publishes every other week. Email her at or call 461-8304.

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