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National Specially-Abled Pets Day

By Colleen Williams
published: May 3, 2018 - updated: April 24, 2023 • 2 min. read
small dog in a wheel chair

Last updated April 24, 2023.

Every year on May 3rd, pet advocates and adoption groups around the U.S. celebrate National Specially Abled Pets Day, promoting the adoption of pets that need a little extra TLC.

Many shelter animals across the country are overlooked every year simply because they have special needs – usually because they are perceived to be cost-prohibitive to a new pet parent or they’re simply deemed “unadoptable.” This annual day calls attention to these pets – that they need loving forever homes just as much as other homeless cats and dogs. It may be a terrific tripod (a pup with three legs) or a kitty who needs to take a daily pill; all these specially-abled pets make fantastic companions, regardless of their situation. National Specially-abled Pets Day celebrates these furry heroes and helps educate the public about caring for them.

Founded in 2006, the day was originally called “Disabled Pets Day” when founder Colleen Paige felt that it simply didn’t fit. “The name held too negative a connotation… because these pets are very able! Pets that become challenged due to disease, birth flaws, or injuries tend to develop greater senses than your average pet. Most of the time, it’s as if they never had to readjust to life…and we need to keep up with them!”

The benefits of specially-abled pets

specially abled pets

A specially-abled or handicapped pet has a physical or mental condition to varying degrees. They can be overlooked because people aren’t clued into their superpowers just yet:

  • Visionimpaired pets have extremely developed senses of smell, hearing, and touch that help guide them around their environment.
  • Dogs that are hearing-impaired can still respond to sign language commands. As an added benefit, they bark less, too!
  • Animals missing legs are just as playful and energetic as those with all four paws, if not more so!

Caring for special pets

If you are willing to open your home and heart to a specially-abled pet, you will have to enforce some rules to the humans of the house, such as keeping hearing-impaired pups leashed when in public, avoiding a seasonal rearranging of your home’s furniture if you adopt a blind pet, etc. But the good parts outweigh any special rules – you’re giving love to a pet who needs it, and if you have children, adopting a specially-abled animal can be a great lesson for them in developing empathy and, most importantly, gaining a wonderful friend.

Your local animal shelter is sure to have some specially-abled pets available for adoption. If they don’t have one and you’re still interested in providing a home, your area might have specialized animal sanctuaries. If you want to help but don’t have room in your pack right now, consider donating to a charity for specially-abled animals in your area.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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