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San Francisco Shelter Volunteer Finds Homes For Thousands Of Senior Dog

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In the late 1990s, Sherri Franklin’s love for animals led her to volunteer as a dog walker at her local SPCA. Though she was asked to give her time to the San Francisco-area shelter just once a week, she soon started showing up almost daily in order to spend more time with her furry charges.

It didn’t take long for Franklin to notice that senior pups were being bypassed in favor of younger dogs. Compounding the problem was the fact that older dogs were more likely to have minor health issues, ones that would not resolve easily in a stressful shelter environment. Franklin was heartbroken that many of the older dogs she had bonded with would be euthanized before finding a home, but she wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Determined to help all dogs have better lives, she began working on community policies that would have widespread impact. After she was elected vice-chair of the San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare in 2002, she spearheaded the so-called “backyard dog ordinance” that enforced minimum requirements for care of tethered dogs.

Finding Loving Homes

With all of her good works in the community, Franklin was still bothered by what she saw in the shelter’s cramped cages day in and day out. She thought about leaving her volunteer post altogether, so as not to experience the sadness it brought her. Realizing it was time to take radical steps to save those special dogs, in 2007 Franklin began bringing them home, rescuing 27 by herself in just one year.

By 2008, Franklin had a full-fledged rescue operation on her hands. She founded Muttville, a nonprofit organization specifically devoted to the problem of older dogs languishing in shelters. In its early days, Muttville served solely in the San Francisco Bay area, winning multiple community awards for its mission. However, within a few years, Muttville went national, connecting aging mutts with forever homes across the country.

Muttville now operates out of a devoted, cage-free space, after moving from Franklin’s home in 2012. With hundreds of volunteers and foster homes on hand, by the end of 2018, Muttville had placed more than 6000 senior dogs with new families!

Life In Their Years

Muttville’s mission is simple: Find homes for dogs that have fewer years but plenty of love left to give. Dogs are placed with foster families while they await veterinary and social assessments so that they do not have to spend their days in cages.

Two of Muttville’s signature programs are their dog hospice and their Seniors for Seniors initiative. According to, a dog may be considered senior as early as five years, depending on the breed. While Muttville strives to find permanent homes for all dogs, some may be so medically fragile they have only weeks or months to live. In those cases, volunteers bring these animals home to care for them and keep them comfortable until euthanasia is the only remaining option. Muttville finances all treatment costs for hospice dogs.

The popular Seniors for Seniors program connects senior pups with senior citizens in two ways. For seniors over 62 who wish to adopt a senior dog, Muttville waives the adoption fee and provides necessary supplies for the first month of the match. The second option is one on one time with senior dogs at the organization’s headquarters, where senior citizens can enjoy canine companionship without some of the worries of dog ownership.

According to, animal rescues all over the country have implemented the model Franklin has put into place with her team of fellow dog lovers. In short, there’s no telling how many senior dogs have had life added to their years through Franklin’s determination and love.

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