Susan Kurowski—executive director of the Pets for the Elderly Foundation (PFE), which covers a portion of the adoption fee for seniors, 60-years-old or older, adopting a shelter dog or cat from one of PFE’s participating shelters—outlined in a “Talking Animals” interview the history of the organization, founded in Cleveland in 1992 by entrepreneur Avrum Katz, and going national in 2002.
Kurowski explained that two impulses propelled Katz in this direction: Being distressed by the huge number of animals that languished in shelters (and, in many instances, were euthanized), and recognizing—as an older single man himself—that living with one or more animals helps stave off loneliness and isolation in the elderly.
Still, Kurowski noted, a philosophical underpinning of PFE is that they’ve consistently paid a portion of the adoption fee (typically, these days, $50), rather than absorbing the whole cost. She addressed studies and other research that indicate the health benefits for older adults through the companionship and other virtues provided through pet ownership.
Noting that PFE currently works with 57 shelters across 35 states, I ask about what seems to be a thin state-to-shelter ratio, and 20 years, after going national, appears to be a small number of shelters overall—and how these baffling statistics square with PFE’s latest campaign to expand the program to all 50 states.
Kurowski lays out the criteria for becoming a PFE shelter, noting that, within the last year or so, the organization broadened the initiative to allow adopters to choose between a subsidized adoption or helping cover the cost of veterinary care or pet food for their newly-adopted animal.