The two principal objectives of the Silver Paws project are to stop the killing of adoptable dogs and cats and to provide a lifeline for elderly people and their pets. The situation facing us is serious, the problems intimidating, the challenges immense. For example, in Metro Toronto alone there are more than 300,000 people over the age of 65 and an estimated 1 million dogs and cats.
In just six years, two dogs and their offspring can theoretically be the source of 67,000 puppies. Cats, able to have three litters per year, are even more prolific. In theory, over a seven-year period, two cats and their offspring can produce 420,000 kittens.
Each year in Metropolitan Toronto alone, at least 20,000 animals are killed because there are simply not enough loving homes. Thousands more are taken out into the countryside and abandoned or are left to roam wild in the back alleyways and ravines where they eventually succumb to illness or injury, and before this happens, help breed the next generation of homeless animals at risk.
Based upon our firsthand experiences, we believe that many of these belong to elderly people who can no longer afford to care for their pets, or who have lost their pets and are unable to find them, or who are forced, through no fault of their own, to surrender their pets because of landlord-tenant disputes, because the elderly become ill or bedridden or are forced to enter nursing homes and hospitals, or because they lack the money necessary to pay for food, routine and life saving veterinary medical care for their animals.
Pets contribute to the well being of elderly people. For example, a 1999 Australian study reported dogs and cats saved $AUD 2.227 billion ($CDN 1.848 billion) of current health expenditure in 1994-95. The study found that compared to non-pet owners that people who own pets typically visit the doctor less often and use less medication, have lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, recover more quickly from illness and surgery, deal better with stressful situations and are less likely to report feeling lonely.