Reply: You make an excellent point that deserves further illumination.
It it absolutely true that most of the animals who are abandoned at shelters and pounds have been neglected for a very long time -- in some cases, years.
Imagine how old we as humans would appear if we hadn't showered or washed our hair in years? Imagine the effects of poor nutrition, lack of exercise and lack of medical or dental care on the age appearance of a human? Surely under such circumstances, we would appear far older than our actual years.
The same is true for animals.
It is indeed, a very tough job to try and gage the real age of animals arriving at Animal Control -- especially when the people turning the animals in deny ownership and claim to have found the animals as "strays." That means the shelter gets NO history or important information on the cats or dogs such as true age, behavior or breed type or mix. It is often up to inexperienced and lowly paid shelter staff to try and "put the pieces of the puzzle together" -- and as pointed out, this often results in substantial and very serious errors that can easily end up costing the cat or dog his or her life.
Almost everything boils down to subjective guess, speculation and interpretation -- guesses that are often measured upon and against years of neglect.
There are of course, some animals who appear much younger than they actually are -- my Tina, for example.
But, the animals who are loved, exercised and well cared for generally don't wind up in city pounds.
So yes, it seems that sadly, many if not in fact, most of shelter animals are often "evaluated" to be older than they actually are.
Most of the blame for this belongs with the people who owned the animals and dumped them in the shelters. -- Especially when they lie about and deny ownership.
But, I do think shelter veterinarians and other staffers seriously need to take these facts into account. If the animal appears to be in a serious state of neglect, then s/he will appear far older than s/he actually is. That is a FACT. -- Allowances need to be made for it.
It would be really nice if people (who are forced to give up a pet for whatever reason) would take the time before just dumping the dog or cat to have the animal medically tended to or groomed.
Does this sound far-fetched?
Well, believe it or not, but we rescued a Chow named "Jada" a couple of months ago, who apparently was groomed before the people dropped her off to AC&C! They also admitted ownership of Jada and left a history (what is called, "Animal Profile.")
This not only resulted in correct information on the dog, but also saved us (the rescue) the cost and time of having to do grooming and other medical care that should have been attended to by past owners.
Jada was successfully adopted mere weeks following her rescue -- something (sadly) unusual for us these days.
Jada's past owners apparently had both, the insight and sense of responsibility to attend to their dog before surrendering her to a shelter. They therefore, gave Jada the very best chance they could to help insure this dog would get out of the shelter alive and into a loving home.
If these people could do the right thing by their dog, why not others?
Perhaps that is a message that we need to get out to the public:
"If forced to give up an animal to a shelter, please attend to the pet's medical and grooming needs beforehand. Please also admit to ownership and be willing to share important information with shelter. This greatly enhances the pet's chances of being adopted to a loving and appropriate home. Failure to do these things can and often does result in needless deaths of the animals."
One wonders how many cats and dogs actually die due to neglect of these simple, but important matters and the resultant "wrong information" on them?
A very grim thought, indeed. -- PCA