Animal shelters and rescue programs desperately need the help of people who will provide in-home foster care for some of their animals.
What Is Animal Foster Care?
Animal foster care is similar to human foster care in that you provide a loving, safe, temporary environment for animals in need. Programs vary from facility to facility, but generally The Shelter/Rescue provides the food and medications; you supply the place and the love.
Why Animal Foster Care?
Shelters and rescues need foster homes for several reasons:
- Over-Crowding Shelters often don’t have space to provide proper housing to all the animals that come to them. Each foster animal you accept saves two lives and improves a third. You save the life of the animal you foster, and the one that gets the space this opens up at the shelter/rescue. And your life is improved through the experience.
- Medical Needs Some animals must undergo medical procedures or treatment that will require closer individual supervision than can realistically be provided by the shelter staff and volunteers. Some foster homes specialize in medical needs animals by providing the extra care needed to comfort and care for their guests during treatment and recovery. Nursing skills are helpful, but not at all required: the shelter/rescue will tell you what to watch for and what to do if problems arise. Often all that is needed is someone to dispense medications, reassure and comfort the animal while they deal with the discomfort of a medical procedure, and to be sure they don’t over-exert themselves during recovery.
- Socialization Being picked up as a stray or rescued from an abusive situation and taken to an animal shelter can be a traumatic experience for a dog. Shelters are by nature noisy, unsettling places for animals (and people). Some do not adjust well and become withdrawn, anti-social, or defensive. To be eligible for adoption, a dog must be willing to come to the gate and greet a visitor. If they won’t they are top-listed for being put down. Very often, a transitional placement, like a foster home, will allow this animal to acclimate to a new way of life – and their life is saved by this.
- Behavioral Some animals that come into the shelter are disobedient and unruly. They’re not bad animals, they simply have not been trained. Even a little guidance and training settles them down and vastly improves their chances of adoption and having a long, happy life. You don’t need to be a professional trainer; just knowing the basics of positive-reward training and having the ability to be both loving and firm will help you change these lives for the better.
- Puppies Puppies are more prone to infection by things like parvo virus and respiratory infection than are older dogs. Placing a litter of puppies into foster care until they are old enough for inoculation can save the entire family and prevent a parvo outbreak at the shelter that could result in the destruction of many innocent animals.
Why We Foster
We got into fostering when Zadie was killed by a bear. The loss was agonizing both to us and to our remaining dog, Dolly. She pined constantly. We didn’t want to “replace” Zadie, but we did want a companion for Dolly – and to do something to repay the love and affection we’d received from our dogs.
Marie discovered that the local animal shelter desperately needed foster homes, and she looked into their program. We liked what they had to say, and we liked that we could save lives and bring comfort to a few dogs while they await a permanent home.
Once we got involved, we were hooked! These animals were so grateful and so loving that we knew we had to continue.
Is Fostering For You?
You have a love of animals and are thinking of helping (or you would not be here) but you’re unsure about whether you can “handle” fostering. Here are some common concerns:
I don’t know if I have time.
If you are successfully caring for pets of your own, you have time. A foster animal will take little more of your time, and what extra time you do put into training and loving them will be greatly rewarded in personal satisfaction.
If you currently have no pets, examining your schedule and commitments is a good idea before taking in a foster animal. While their basic needs are minimal, you do need to have enough time each day to see to their physical requirements and give them the love and care they so desperately need.
I don’t know if I can afford it.
While it is true that you will need to provide some basic equipment: dishes for water and food, a crate to sleep in, a pen, fenced area or a tether for outside time and some basic grooming equipment (which you may already have), these investments are tax deductible as contributions to The shelter/rescue as long as it is a 501(c)(3) organization. This equipment is all re-usable, and it does not need to be top-dollar quality: dishes and blankets are easily affordable when bought from your local Goodwill or thrift store. The Shelter provides food and medication: by far the greatest expense, and may be able to help with crates and fencing by allowing you to buy through them from their vendors at a discount. Some may have a crate you can borrow until you decide if fostering is right for you.
I don’t know if I can say ‘good bye’.
Fostering often creates a bond between the animal and its care-giver; handing that animal off to someone else can be saddening. But isn’t it joyful to know that you SAVED that animal’s life? By seeing the sweet critter you nurtured go off to a forever home you have had a hand in providing that animal a long-term, loving, stable, nurturing environment. That is so much better than being put down because the shelter was over-crowded.
Welcoming your next guest eases the sting of saying goodby to the former one. When you drop one off, pick up another – another life saved! In a while another family somewhere will have their life enriched by adopting the animal you are about to help mold into a well-behaved pet.
If you currently do not have a pet and are wondering if it would work, fostering is a great way to find out. You get to care for an animal in your home on an extended basis. If you find that it’s not workable for you, do not accept more animals when this one leaves.
If you are seeking a pet and want to be sure you get the right one, fostering is a great way to do “extended interviews” of animals. When one comes along that you fall in love with, ADOPT it! Just be sure you’re in a program that allows foster-to-adopt.
If you choose to turn away it does not mean that someone else will step in to help. What it does mean is that you choose not to help. Isn’t that even more sad than saying ‘good bye’ after saving them? Animals are amazingly loving and grateful creatures. Won’t you help save their lives?
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