In this series, I try to advocate for dogs with altered mobility, but outside this blog, I advocate for most any underdog. (Ba-dum-chick.) Lots of dogs fall under the classification of being "less-adoptable."
The term "special needs," as applied to dogs, is a very large umbrella term. It includes those like Prada, who have altered mobility, as well as dogs that are blind or deaf, have social or behavioural challenges to overcome, have chronic health issues, are heartworm positive, or have dietary restrictions. This means that because a dog with food allergies needs to be on a lamb and rice diet (which most decent dog food manufacturers carry), it's labeled "special needs" and therefore less adoptable. Same goes for a dog that is skittish around men in hats. Or a dog that is blind in one eye. Most people interested in adopting will skip right over any dog whose profile shows the special needs icon.
"Special needs" isn't an "is" or "is not" thing; rather it's a spectrum. Plenty of dogs with the label will lead normal, healthy lives that require no significant extra care. And plenty of them have serious issues that may take a lot of time or money to deal with, which doens't mean they aren't deserving of a loving home.
Elderly dogs are also less-adoptable. My first dog, Hans, came into my life when he was nine or so. For a dachshund, which can live well into their teens, that's not really old. But dogs in the shelter system are often dubbed "elderly" as early as age five for larger breeds and seven for smaller breeds. Many of these dogs have years and years of life left, if they can avoid euthanization. And those that are truly elderly are often calmer and lower-maintenance, energy-wise, than their younger counter-parts, which may in fact make them a better fit for some people.
Also on the "less-adoptable" list are the bully breeds. If you know anything about breed specific legislation, you know the term "pit bull" is frequently applied to many more dog breeds than just the American Pit Bull Terrier: Staffordshire Terriers, bull dogs, and even boxers have been inacurately labelled. And pit bulls (of whatever breed) are the most-euthanized dogs in shelters.
Cesar Milan can give much more articulate reasons why this is such a tragedy than I can. But I do know that I have met my fair share of dogs I've actually been afraid of--and they ranged from big dogs to little, all sorts of breeds. What they all did have in common was owners who wouldn't take responibility for their dog's behavior. On the other hand, my good friends who have adopted three adult American Pit Bull mixes have the sweetest girls you've ever met. It's not luck that those three dogs are well-adjusted and happy. (Although they are lucky dogs.)
Look, the point of advocating for these dogs is not to make people feel guilty about the kind of dog they have or want--it's about educating, and hopefully making someone consider--often for the first time--whether they might be willing to take on a dog that needs some accomodation, and what level of accomodation they are able or willing to make.
And, ooh, hey, look what my awesome cousin found: