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.

With another shelter dog around – a stout mixed breed named Frankie – she’s even gotten the confidence to jump on our bed when we’re sleeping, though she sprints away when we try to get up.


Frankie and Gypsy; Photo Credit: Author

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.


Photo Credit: SneakerDog

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.


Photo Credit: Ricky Buchanan

“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.


Photo Credit: Rob Swatski

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.”

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Sue H
Sue H8 months ago

Helpful considerations, thanks.

JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris8 months ago


Chrissie R
Chrissie R8 months ago

Just be prepared for adoption. :-))

W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you.

William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thanks for caring.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Joyce W.
Joyce W2 years ago

The loving care given to their foster pets is a beautiful act of kindness by opening their homes to help a companion animal to adjust & heal. The goal being able to have them find there forever home. Wish more awareness about the need for foster homes was available to the public. There could be older people who would be willing to open their hearts & homes to help out dogs or cats on this type of temporary arrangement. Many people may not be able to have a permanent pet due to financial or personal limitations. But to foster could be an alternative & be helpful to both. Thank you to all who foster!

Natasha salgado
Past Member 2 years ago

I'm a repeated foster failure. I just had a really tough time giving up the pups kitties. I volunteer now even that is very tough as i wanna adopt the entire shelter but at least i know not one sweet angel here will be murdered as it's a No-kill place.

Tracy Cannell

Fostering and adopting from shelters saves more than one life the one you adopt/foster and the one that takes its place.

Deborah W.
Deborah W2 years ago

TO REVERSE THE WASTE CAUSED BY HUMANS WHO JUST DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ANYTHING BEYOND THEMSELVES. If circumstances don't allow full adoption at present, foster care is a good transition for animals back into loving, caring, sharing environments, then ready for the next step, hopefully, a forever home that's worthy of them.