By Cathy Foster | Chicago Pet Sitters Pet Care Specialist
Here at Chicago Pet Sitters we are big advocates of fostering. We even share office space with a leading, innovative rescue, One Tail at a Time. So we’re excited to spread the word about National Foster a Pet Month, sponsored by the Petco Foundation.
Many, if not most, rescues have no central facility in which they can house animals so rely solely on foster homes. The number of foster homes they have determine how many dogs and cats they can pull from county and municipal shelters, where they may be at risk of euthanasia due to space limitations.
“If less than two percent of pet-owning households in the United States fostered one pet a year, we could eliminate unnecessary euthanasia in animal shelters tomorrow. That is a pretty startling statistic to most people,” said Susanne Kogut, president of the Petco Foundation.
Dana Dubriwny, owner of CPS, realized the incredible impact fostering can make seven years ago when she employed a dog walker who was involved in the rescue community. “It was then I learned the importance of fostering, and how many animals monthly and yearly were euthanized because there simply wasn’t enough space for them all. Once I stepped foot in the city shelter, Chicago Animal Care and Control, it became clear how important rescuing and fostering is for our community. Every placed foster is a saved life. This is still an issue, and foster homes are still needed.”
Even if an animal is not at risk of euthanasia, foster homes can provide a beneficial change of environment for animals who have been in a shelter for a long time or are having a hard time adjusting to life in a kennel, where they may not get the training, exercise or stimulation they need. Other pets may not “show” well in a shelter, but they shine in a home.
Some shelter animals need a place to recover, like a pittie named Adele, one of a dozen dogs Dana has fostered for Be Fido’s Friend and One Tail at a Time. “She was found severely underweight and malnourished, and it was my responsibility as her foster to nurse her back to health. Over a period of three months, she slowly grew to be healthy and strong and ended up with a great family.”
A foster home also provides the perfect place for under-socialized cats and dogs to learn to trust and love. That was the case with Nike, an 8-month-old tortoiseshell-tabby that CPS cat sitter Alison Lacey fostered for PAWS Chicago.
“When we got her, she was recovering from an upper respiratory infection. She was also extremely shy and fearful, and PAWS was looking for someone to work on socialization,” said Alison. “She looked so scared in the photo they had of her in the medical center, but she has totally come out of her shell and is a total sweetheart.”
Fostering offers “so many benefits that I’m not even sure where to begin,” said Dana. “Knowing that you are saving a life is pretty indescribable, and then watching a dog that you helped care for flourish in a forever home is one of the most rewarding feelings.”
Plus, if you’re interested in adopting it’s also a great way to see if the pet would be a good fit before saying yes, said Alison–who ultimately did.
Before you dive into fostering, however, make sure you and the organization for which you will be fostering are on the same page. For example, you don’t want to find out once the animal is already in your home that you are expected to foster it until it has been adopted when you only expected to care for it for a few weeks or so. Find out too how the organization will support you. Will they provide medications, if needed? Food and other supplies? Can they provide backup if you need to go out of town during the time you are fostering? Make sure you understand and are comfortable with all policies before you agree to foster.
Take your own situation into consideration as well. “Any dog I foster has to get along with my personal dogs,” said Dana, who has two, including a former foster that she adopted. “It’s so important to me that the ‘house dogs’ are comfortable sharing their space, so I won’t foster until the dogs have met and I know that it would be a fun, temporary addition to our household.”
Make sure you have the time, space, and energy, but do it, said Alison. “There are lots of opportunities to foster short term (two weeks or less) if you need a shorter time commitment or just want to test the waters.”
The hardest part about fostering may be letting go when the time comes. “Seven years later I still think about my first foster dog,” said Dana. “If you fall for your foster, but you cannot keep them, it can be a challenge to give them up to an adopter. But then again, falling in love with your foster dog is a small price to pay if you know they are ending up in a great home.”
For tips on fostering with your own pets in the home, with limited space and more, or to find a rescue or shelter near you, check out https://www.petcofoundation.org/events/be-a-foster/.
For more information about fostering, see: