Shelter Urges Adopters Not to Forget Pets With Special Needs

Clear the Shelters

When it comes to rescuing animals from a shelter, there are some pets that are often overlooked — those with special needs.

Trainers at a Chicago shelter say long-term dogs and cats often go unnoticed by many who come for the animals’ younger, more typical counterparts.

Joan Harris, the director of Paws Chicago’s Canine Behavior and Training, said adopters shouldn’t pass on long-term animals or those with special needs without giving them a chance.

“If you look at the specific environment, that’s why sometimes it takes a little bit longer for these dogs to get adopted, becuase we’re looking for that specific environment,” she said. 

Mattie, a lovable and energetic pit-lab mix who was in need of extra attention, sat at Paws Chicago for almost a year before she found a home willing to take her in.

It was all because a volunteer at the shelter dressed Mattie up in a tutu and walked her around Chicago. The outfit quickly gained attention on social media.

“We started walking up and down Armitage and through the streets of Chicago wearing her tutu,” said volunteer Mark Lucas. “And suddenly people who would step aside because ‘Let that big dog through’ were like ‘Oh my God she’s so cute. Can I say hello?’ And she was getting posted and everybody started talking about Mattie and this dog that was going through Chicago with her tutu and that kind of got the ball rolling.” 

That’s when Emma Turbyville came along and adopted Mattie.

“She’s just a sweetheart, really,” Turbyville said.

Lucas urges people to “come in with a clean slate.”

“Walk into the shelter and maybe ask about who is your longest-term guest and start there, because the shelter will have a wealth of knowledge about that animal,” he said.

For more information on Chicago-area shelters participating in NBC and Telemundo owned stations’ Clear The Shelters pet adoption campaign, click here

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