Myths About Disabled Animals
There are a lot of myths about disabled animals that make it more likely they will be surrendered to shelters once they become disabled, and less likely to be adopted once they get there. These myths are, of course, wrong.
1. "Disabled animals can’t have a good quality of life."
Oh, yes they can! Our disabled animals prove every day that they can enjoy life to the fullest. They are funny, energetic, loving, and have just as much personality as any ‘normal’ animal. They don’t feel sorry for themselves, and they don’t want you to feel sorry for them, either. They roughhouse with each other, play chase games, wrestle and romp – in other words, it’s life as any animal would live it. We have a couple of blind dogs whose lack of vision is probably the only thing that keeps them from stealing the car keys and heading to town! Ask anyone who has a disabled pet, and they will tell you what a wonderful life she or he enjoys. For more proof, go visit our YouTube page to see videos of our animals in action.
2. "Disabled animals have a lot of medical problems."
Again, not true. While the actual disability may present some medical challenges – for example, blind dogs may often require follow-up care for their eyes – they aren’t necessarily more prone to getting sick or needing extra veterinary care than a non-disabled animal. Just like people, every animal is a unique individual with his or her own health history and issues. There are plenty of non-disabled animals with a full roster of health problems … and plenty of disabled ones who live a long, healthy life.
3. "Disabled animals have behavior problems – they’re more likely to snap and bite."
We’ve heard it over and over before. A shelter or rescue group tells us they have a dog that is blind, deaf, or blind and deaf, and she’s snapping or biting "because she can’t see or hear." This is the classic problem of confusing causation with correlation. There are plenty of dogs who have no disabilities whatsoever who snap and bite, and yet no one would attribute the behavior problem to the fact that they can see and hear. Right? So why would anyone insist that being blind or deaf causes an animal to snap or bite? If an animal has an aggression problem, it’s because of his or her personality, not the disability. There are also people who use an animal’s disability to excuse or explain away an aggression problem, as if the disability somehow "justifies” it. Wrong. Aggression is not acceptable in any animal, whether they’re disabled or not. We expect our own disabled animals to have the same behavior standards and good manners as any well-behaved pet. Just because they’re disabled doesn’t mean we hold them to a lesser standard.
A companion myth to this general one is that deaf or blind dogs snap when startled, especially when being woken up. In ten years of working with hundreds of blind, deaf, and blind and deaf animals, we have never – not once – been bitten by one … no matter how much they’ve been startled. Again, if a dog snaps when startled, that’s because of his or her personality.
4. "It’s more difficult to care for a disabled animal."
In general, disabled animals really don’t require a whole lot of special care or accommodations. The exception is for paralyzed animals, of course, some of who may be incontinent (unable to have bladder or bowel control) as well as unable to walk. There are a number of excellent wheelchairs on the market (see our Resources page) that give paralyzed animals their mobility back, and there are doggie diapers and other products to help deal with the incontinence issue. So yes, extra effort is definitely required to care for a paralyzed animal. But for a blind, deaf, blind and deaf, or three-legged animal, the typical home is just fine. We believe a fenced yard is necessary for any dog, and this is especially important for the safety of the ones who can’t see or hear.