- You are a retiree that travels a lot, but when home you miss having furry (or scaly) companions around.
- You want to teach your children about responsible pet ownership but don’t have the time/resources to commit to a forever pet.
- Your job has weird hours (gone for a few weeks to a few months/home for a few weeks to a few months) and it would be unfair to have a forever pet.
- There are specific breeds/species that you can’t get enough of and want to help a rescue or shelter.
- Your teenage kids want a pet but will be leaving the nest in a year or two, and you know you won’t have time to care for a pet alone.
- You are on a fixed income and can’t financially commit to a full time pet.
Generally speaking, animal foster parents help shelters and rescues when they have reached full capacity, or when an animal requires a quiet place to recuperate from an illness or injury. Sometimes a foster parent will address mild behavioral issues that is preventing homeless pets from finding their forever home. For instance, a dog that pulls hard on a leash doesn’t always make the best first impression. A foster provider might commit to teaching the dog a nice Loose Leash Walk while fostering for six weeks.
In a skilled foster home, a dog might learn how to greet people without jumping on them, learn not to mouth human hands, or master other manners skills which will help the dog leave a good impression with a potential adopter. A cat may be struggling with defecating outside the box due to stress in the shelter. In a foster home, the foster family will be able to report back that, once in a home, the problem goes away. If it doesn’t, they will work on the issue before placement into a forever home.
Sometimes a nursing or pregnant mother requires a calm household to give birth and nurse their young until they are old enough to be adopted. Other times it is just a matter of helping those overlooked, middle aged dogs get out into the community frequently, to show off their wonderful temperaments. In my experience, getting a homeless pet into the community is one of the greatest ways to help them find a forever home.
You don’t need tons of experience to be an Animal Foster provider. All you really need to provide is a calm, clean home, the ability to dedicate a short amount of time (2 weeks to roughly 2 months, which is negotiated before you bring the animal home), and to follow any instructions the shelter/rescue might have.
I started fostering bottle babies when I was 12 years old. I had befriended my hometown’s Animal Control Officer, and he gave me a nearly endless supply of motherless puppies, kittens, and the occasional squirrel, to raise through spring and summer. Of course, that was in the 70’s, when liability lawsuits were not really a concern. Today, it is more difficult for kids to volunteer, but it is not out of the question. The parent or guardian must be an active participant in fostering, and ultimately the one who is responsible for the animals in their care.
I started fostering with my children when they were about 7 & 8 years old. We fostered dogs/puppies, cats/kittens, rabbits, ferrets, rats, and guinea pigs. With supervision, encouragement, and teamwork, my kids learned how to care for a plethora of animals, bottle feed babies, clicker training, and to truly clean up after pets. We convinced our retiree friends who traveled much of the year, to spend few months while home, helping animals recuperate from spay/neuters, ACL surgeries, and the like. A couple close friends with behavioral experience focused on minor behavioral issues.
All financial needs for the animal are paid for by the shelter/rescue and the pets will be updated on pertinent vaccines and preventatives before you ever bring them home. They come with food, crates (as needed) and usually everything else you might need in order to keep the pet healthy and happy. Most organizations that utilize foster parents also have a great support system in place, and if for any reason, you cannot keep the pet as long as intended, will take the pet back right away without issue.
If you are looking for a rewarding project you can do right from your home, consider fostering. Animal foster parents provide invaluable information that busy shelter/rescue staff may overlook, or not see in a shelter environment. Conversely, homeless pets may display behaviors in a shelter environment that a potential adopter wouldn’t likely see in a forever home, but without foster parents, shelter staff wouldn’t know. The insights the foster homes provide, help potential adopters decide if the pet they are considering, is indeed a good, lifelong fit.