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Wednesday, June 14, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Older pets find new homes with seniors

Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau

LYNNWOOD

- Charles Hoffman's (cq) stoic blue eyes brightened as he rounded the corner into the kennel. He glanced first at Brandi, a mature, well-mannered golden retriever with a cherry-colored coat, then at Pedro, a black mixed breed. He smiled, then went to the next room.

That's where Hoffman found Precious, a 5-year-old short-haired domestic cat with a shock of white fur.

"I think I like this one," said Hoffman, cradling the animal like a newborn. "I'd love to take her home today."

Amid barking dogs and purring felines, Hoffman and seven other residents from an Everett senior apartment complex toured the Progressive Animal Welfare Society's Lynnwood-area shelter last week in search of a mature companion.

The tour ushered in a new PAWS program called Seniors for Seniors.

The program will place older cats and dogs - typically more than 7 years old - with people who are generally 60 and above. The age guidelines are flexible.

Kay Joubert, PAWS program director, thinks the program will be "a lifesaver for everybody."

There's research to back that up, said Alan Beck, a professor at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine and co-author of "Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship."

"Studies have shown that older people with pets walk more, talk more and make more eye contact," Beck said. "It's a social catalyst."

The idea of linking mature pets and older people isn't a new one. The Seattle-King County Humane Society, based in Bellevue, has a seniors-and-cats matchmaking program in which people 60 and older receive a 50 percent discount on adoption fees when they adopt a cat age 2 or older.

One model for Seniors for Seniors is run by North Shore Animal League in Long Island, N.Y. Babs Mohel, the program's manager, said the Long Island program has saved more than 1,050 animals since it began in 1993.

Because many senior citizens are on a fixed income, PAWS will charge only $35 per adoption, less than half the normal fee. That includes a health exam for the animal, a collar and identification tag, a microchip for permanent identification, a leash or cat carrier, vaccinations and a free bag of food and toys. In addition, each animal comes spayed or neutered.

PAWS has faced some controversy over pet adoptions.

In 1985, for example, a 72-year-old woman claimed PAWS officials said she was too old to adopt a particular puppy.

Joubert, who said she wasn't familiar with that reported complaint, said age isn't the determining factor. She said a senior could adopt any pet as long as he or she can care for it.

"We never just say no," Joubert said. "But with every adoption, we always have a conversation about what's practical. Many seniors already come in looking for adult animals."

The group that visited the shelter Thursday didn't end up taking home any new pets. But most had to fight the temptation.

Hoffman, who is 58 and in a wheelchair because he lost part of his right leg to diabetes, had dogs, cats, deer, a raccoon and squirrels before moving from Lake Stevens seven years ago. These days, living by himself, he misses the companionship.

As soon as he can save up the $150 pet deposit his landlord requires, he said he'll return to pick up Precious.

Brady Dennis' phone message number is 425-745-7803. His e-mail address is bdennis@seattletimes.com

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Shelter information

Seniors for Seniors is run by the Progressive Animal Welfare Society at its shelter, 15305 44th Ave. W., north of Lynnwood. For information, call 425-787-2500, Ext. 488, or go to the PAWS Web site at www.paws.org.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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