The Census Bureau reports that the number of Americans sixty-five years and older is expected to double to 88.5 million by 2050, and will represent 19% of the population by 2030. Not only is the percentage of the population over sixty-five years of age growing, but the aging population itself is getting older. The growth of the aging population and the “oldest old” will have a significant impact on societal resources and health care costs.
As the percentage of this population increases, it is crucial to consider factors that will contribute to their well-being and health. One of these factors is the role that companion animals have in their lives. One professor of history wrote, “The history of pet keeping is an integral part of the history of everyday life in the United States.” The role that companion animals play in the life of an individual often changes over time. For some older adults, companion animals are a vital part of their daily existence. This Article concludes that the keeping of companion animals by older adults is increasing and that the law currently provides some protection and facilitates resident animal programs. However,
greater support for these laws and programs is needed to ensure a positive relationship between humans and their animal companions.
This Article is divided into four substantive parts. Part II considers the role of pets in the United States and the impact of companion animals in the lives of seniors. Part III analyzes issues that the elderly may face in keeping or interacting with companion animals in their residences. Part IV analyzes federal laws that ensure that persons with disabilities using service and assistance animals will have access to public accommodations and housing. Part V of this Article considers risks and ethical issues involved with having animals in the lives of the elderly.