116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Cedar Rapids — Scarlett, an 8-year-old American Bulldog mix that sports an inviting smile and amber eyes, recently marked three years of having lived at the Dogs Forever shelter in Cedar Rapids.
Scarlett, and other dogs not adopted for years, are being overlooked because of age and breed, said Crystal Ellis, Dogs Forever fundraising committee lead and its Facebook guru. The nonprofit shelter, run by volunteers, says the dogs it takes in are in its care until they have forever homes.
Ellis said Scarlett has spent half her life in the shelter, emblematic of an estimated 3.1 million dogs that enter shelters in the United States each year. Some breeds, like pit bulls or pit bull “look-alikes,” stay longer in shelters than others, according to a 2016 study.
“Both times that she was dropped off, returned or owner-surrendered, it was to no fault of her own,” she said. “The first time the family had a baby and the second time they divorced.”
Q: Why are senior dogs overlooked?
A: People know what to expect with a puppy. They know that they're going to be potty training, and they're going to be mouthy, and they need to learn obedience and things like that. I think that sometimes, talking with other volunteers at the shelter, people don't want to do the work that it's going to take. With these harder-to-place dogs, you do have to put in the work. I think, to another comment that some of our volunteers made, was that there's a misconception that, you know, rescue and pound dogs are rejects or behavior issues are bad. And in reality, they're not.
Q: Why are people disinterested in adopting specific dog breeds like pit bulls and bulldogs?
A: I think it is kind of that there's that stigma that a breed is bad. Or this breed could be vicious and that's just, unfortunately, information that was probably passed along to them by some misinformation they read online or something. All dogs are good dogs and they usually don't become bad unless they've had bad experiences in their lives from a human. We've had a couple of pit bulls in the system, too, that have taken forever to get adopted.
Q: What does the shelter do to prevent dogs from being overlooked?
A: … We try to post fun videos and get them exposure and we encourage people to come to our shelter during open hours. We try to be active on our social media so that people can see our dogs playing when they post videos, to show them that good dogs, you know, they just got dealt a bad hand.
Q: What are some long-term issues that dogs who are in shelters for years experience?
A: A lot of them they become not dog friendly or they become kind of reserved or they might have a hard time with strangers. When they're not constantly in a family environment where they have an individual or family that's consistent in their life, they don't know how to live in a home. Our dogs get tons love — even one of our volunteers takes Scarlett home every now and then, but she has a cat that she has to lock in the basement. She is a completely different dog at her house, like she just lays in the sun and watches people go by. But at the shelter, she's barky and excited.
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