Why More of Us Should Foster Shelter Pets
When my partner and I first brought home Gypsy – our new foster dog from the Santa Fe Humane Animal Shelter & Humane Society – she cowered in her kennel for over eight hours. If we approached, she peed in terrified submission.
Fast-forward a month later, and the harrier’s sprinting through the dog park every day for hours with her tail held high. She still won’t let us pet her, but we’ve been floored by her progress.
Even as a new volunteer, I’ve experienced the struggles and joys of fostering shelter dogs firsthand. Here’s why you should consider fostering a shelter pet too.
1. There are never enough volunteers.
“We’re always looking for fosters,” says Stacey Archambault of the San Diego Humane Society.
These homes can give animals a break from the shelter, a quiet place to recover from injuries or sickness or extra attention and training to make them adoptable.
In San Diego, the shelter now seeks temporary homes for 30-some-odd dogs from a meat farm in South Korea. They need foster parents experienced with shy and fearful dogs.
Other shelters, like the Animal Humane New Mexico, could use more families who can bottle-feed baby animals. Foster Care Manager Brian Galloway says that close to 700 young kittens came to the Albuquerque shelter last summer alone.
2. Make a shorter-term commitment than adoption.
Fact: Too many cute, domesticable creatures exist. But we can have only so many pets.
When Amy Romanofsky and her husband’s two dogs grew old enough in 2000, they started fostering with the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society in Pittsburgh.
“We had such a good time after we adopted our two, but we knew we couldn’t keep adding more and more and more dogs and keep them forever,” says Romanofsky, who runs FosterDogs.com. “Fostering seemed like a really neat way to get to spend time with a lot of different types of dogs and help them find a forever home—without the responsibility of keeping them forever.”
Some foster as a trial run to owning a pet, while others seek the chance to care for an animal if they’re not established enough to responsibly adopt.
3. Help the neediest animals who might not get adopted otherwise.
While Romanofsky has cared for a few dozen dogs — and recently, a handful of cats — Rufus the boxer has a special place in her heart. When she took him in, he was severely emaciated after being tied up in a yard for much too long. Rufus also had heartworm, a potentially life-threatening condition.
“He was just the sweetest, happiest dog,” says Romanofsky. “And he just needed a place to go where he could gain some weight and recover during the heartworm treatment. And he went on to find a really great family.”
4. See struggling, sick and/or shy animals improve.
“A lot of times you get animals, especially cats, that were born feral, born outside, born to a pound mother, and as they get older, they’re less likely to be [a] fully domesticated, loving, rubbing-your-legs house cat,” says Galloway. “Sometimes having the right person and the right family to take care of that animal for a little while, up to the point they can be spayed and neutered, does absolute wonders for them. It could otherwise save their life.”
Feral kittens aren’t the only ones in need. Dogs rescued from animal hoarding situations could use the same level of socialization to humans, as well as stray puppies.
5. Help animals get adopted.
As a foster parent, you are your charges’ biggest advocate. Many shelters provide bandannas or vests for dogs to wear in public that encourage onlookers to consider adopting them.
Your presence on the sidewalk or at the dog park could push an adopter to take in an animal they may have never considered.
6. The challenge is rewarding—and necessary.
The most important thing you can bring to an animal shelter is compassion, says Galloway. Fostering a homeless dog, cat, bunny, etc. is a key way to do so.
“Until we have a community that’s free of animal neglect and animal abuse and unwanted litters and people selling puppies,” he says. “There will always be a need for more compassion and more humane treatment of animals.”
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