Is Fostering a Pet Right for You?
Fostering pets takes a great deal of work. Read on to see if it could be right for you.
Do you have it in you to foster a pet? Loving animals is a no-brainer, but fostering a pet can be a whole different ballgame.
Fostering is a Big Time Commitment
For starters, fostering a pet involves a very large time commitment; you really need to think about it and weigh your options before becoming involved.
“We ask foster parents to commit until the pet is adopted, which can be anywhere from a week to two months,” says Clare Joscelyne, Interim Foster Coordinator for San Antonio Animal Care Services. Foster parents should also make sure they have the time to socialize the pet and have basic training skills. “A lot of times, housebreaking makes the dog more adoptable.”
Joscelyne adds that that time commitment includes taking foster pets to adoption events while in their care. Most foster parents take on a maximum of two animals at a time, except when they agree to foster litters of puppies or kittens.
“It is important in the foster program to ensure that foster [parents] don’t take on too much at one time and are able to dedicate sufficient amount of time and attention to each foster animal in their care, so we find that the majority of foster parents care for one dog/cat at a time,” says Joscelyne.
Deciding whether fostering is right for you requires you to think about the requirements before the process begins. Requirements can vary from shelter to shelter (or rescue group). The ASPCA, for instance, requires that foster applicants be 21 years old and that windows be screened. Additionally, every member of the family needs to be on board with the decision.
While the ASPCA prefers people who have had some dog experience, all potential foster parents are trained first at the ASPCA adoption center in New York City. Joscelyne also conducts monthly foster orientations at San Antonio Animal Care Services for those interested in learning more about the program.
What Makes a Good Foster Pet Parent?
“A good foster parent is someone who loves animals and who is willing to open their home to pets temporarily until it’s time for the pet to be adopted,” says Julie Sonenberg, administrative manager of volunteer programs at the ASPCA in New York City.
A good foster parent should also have some basic experience with animals. Erin Brodbine of San Francisco, who fosters dogs for Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, insists that foster parents need not necessarily have their own dog or cat, but suggests that potential foster parents know the basic tenets of guardianship, such as avoiding potentially dangerous situations.
Another attribute for a good foster parent is being able to say goodbye.
“I think about adopting each and every dog that I foster and then they find a home,” says Karen Stevens, a publicist based in Los Angeles.
Stevens started fostering in late 2011 for Furry Angel Foundation in Rancho Mirage, taking in fluffy little Malteses and Bichon Frises, dogs she was used to. Typically, Stevens has a dog for about three weeks. “I don’t want them longer than three weeks because I’ll start falling in love with them and they get attached to you.” Stevens always tries to give herself a week or two of down time between fosters.
Some foster parents, though, inevitably fall in love with the animal in their care and want to keep it.
“We actually have quite a few foster [parents] that become attached to their [pets] and end up providing a forever home for their animal,” says Joscelyne. “The foster parents just have to go through the adoption process with the shelter.”
Fostering Can Be a Worthwhile Experience
If you’ve ever considered taking in a pet until he or she finds a forever home, it’s worth trying, says Sonenberg.
Brodbine of San Francisco started fostering because the shelters were so full that dogs were on borrowed time before being euthanized and she wanted to save their lives.
“The best experience is taking in a dog and seeing how precious and absolutely loving they are,” she says.
In its own right, fostering is beautiful because you have the ability to continuously help the animal or animals you work with.
“The foster parent has the advantage of passing on information she’s learned about the dog to the dog’s eventual owner,” says Brodbine. “I’m often asked ‘how do you let them go?’ If you find a forever home for one, there’s always another dog that needs to be rescued.”