Organization: The Grey Muzzle Organization
Investigator(s): Lisa Lunghofer
Grant Amount: $48,475.00
Project Type: Basic Research
Project Status: Research Complete
This qualitative study involved interviews and focus groups with more than 150 program directors, volunteers and senior dog adopters representing Grey Muzzle grantees from across the United States. Using a comparative case study approach, the study provides an in-depth examination not only of the grantees' senior dog programs, but also the context in which those programs were implemented, and lessons learned. This is the first study to examine the state of efforts nationally to promote the well-being of senior dogs. Grantees served nearly 2,100 senior dogs during the 2018 - 2019 grant period, and 20% said the grant challenged long-held assumptions about senior dogs.
The objective of the project was: to better understand, describe and thoroughly analyze senior dog programs, including the context in which they operate, lessons learned from their implementation, and their emerging best and promising practices.
The first and primary phase of the study drew participants from 66 organizations that received a Grey Muzzle grant in 2018 - 2019; of the 66 grantees, 59 participated in individual interviews. A total of 71 interviews were conducted with program directors and staff, 93% of whom were female. In addition, telephone interviews were conducted with 41 volunteers and 13 senior dog adopters from these grantees. A series of virtual focus groups was also conducted with 29 program directors from organizations that received a Grey Muzzle grant in 2019 - 2020.
Qualitative data collected from program directors focused on program models and lessons learned because of the grant. Data gathered from interviews with senior dog fosters focused on motivation for fostering or volunteering to work with senior dogs, fostering/volunteering experience and ideas for program improvement. Interviews with senior dog adopters provided information to understand how the senior dog programs are perceived and experienced by adopters.
As shelters and rescues grapple with cost-related disincentives to accept senior dogs, these findings could help inform development and dissemination of programs and practices to increase timely adoption of and live outcomes for senior dogs.
Helping to overcome some of the challenges may require collaboration among community-based organizations, including other animal welfare groups, social service agencies, other national organizations and veterinary practices. More resources devoted to the recruitment of foster volunteers and successful marketing strategies of senior dogs could also increase lifesaving of this group.