Local Animal Lovers Wanted
Wanted: are you an individual who enjoys the company of animals and has a flexible schedule, but doesn’t want the commitment of a year-round pet? Then you should consider becoming a foster parent for your local shelter or rescue!
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 to 8 million cats and dogs wind up in shelters every year, and sadly 3 to 4 million will likely not find new homes. Many of these animals just need a little extra time and attention until their new family finds them. Most shelters and rescues rely on foster parents to give these animals the leg up they need. Foster parents open their homes temporarily to animals, one individual or one litter at a time, giving them a chance to spend time in a safe, quiet, loving environment rather than in a kennel. For many animals, this opportunity can literally mean the difference between life and death.
For example, kittens and puppies typically aren’t available for adoption until they are old enough for spay/neuter surgery, which is usually done at about 8 weeks of age. During all that time they can either sit in a cage at the shelter, or they can play, snuggle and explore in a loving foster home. Likewise, adult animals may be a bit overwhelmed by the shelter environment, particularly if they have come from a puppy mill or cruelty situation, or the facility may just be too crowded with youngsters to give the older animals a fair chance to show off their attributes. A few days or weeks with a foster parent can make all the difference.
What do current foster parents love about fostering?
No long-term commitment. Foster pets are generally returned to the shelter or rescue after just a few weeks or months, so fostering doesn’t interfere with travel plans, family get-togethers or other commitments.
Flexible schedule. Depending on what type of animals you choose to foster, the daily investment of time could be as little as feeding, litter box cleaning and play time—especially for older animals or for moms nursing puppies or kittens. Or it could be as much as round-the-clock nursing care for orphaned nursing kittens or puppies. Either way, as a foster parent you can choose what level of involvement is best for you.
Convenience. Most organizations provide their foster parents with all of the food, bedding, vet care and other basics their foster pets will need. Some will even deliver the supplies and the animals right to your door!
Sounds great. What’s the catch?
Most foster parents report that the hardest thing about fostering is knowing that eventually you’re going to have to let those bundles of joy go. But as hard as that is, seeing that you have given them the best possible chance at finding a wonderful new home makes it all worthwhile. And even if the worst happens, perhaps a foster pet passes away from an illness or injury (after all, these are living creatures, many of whom did not get quality care before they arrived at the shelter), foster parents can still take comfort knowing that they gave the animal the best possible chance at life.
I’m sold! How do I get started?
Contact your local shelter or rescue and ask if they have a foster program in place. Chances are they will, and they’ll be thrilled to have you participate! Remember, each organization runs its foster program a bit differently. Some will ask foster parents to undergo thorough training while others will be less formal. Some will expect foster parents to help in finding adoptive homes for the animals, while others prefer the shelter take on that task. Find a foster program that you think will work best for you and your household and follow the steps to become an approved foster parent. Then get ready for the unconditional love that pets bring and the joy of knowing that you are helping to save lives!