It's no secret that we've got a serious case of animal overpopulation in this country. And though more people are starting to understand the necessity of spaying and neutering, dogs and cats are continuing to procreate like…well, rabbits. Shelters across the nation are continually dealing with over-capacity, and not only is it taxing their resources and staff, it's making it increasingly difficult for no-kill shelters to save as many animals as they'd like.
So what can you do? While the possibility of adopting another pet may not be in the cards for you right now, becoming a foster parent is an excellent (and unbelievably rewarding) way to keep the population of unwanted and stray animals down, decrease euthanasia rates, and increase adoption rates. It better prepares your foster pet to be the perfect new addition for another family—teach an animal how to love and they will share it with others (and with you!) tenfold.
Think you've got what it takes? Here's the 411:
Is fostering right for you?
To help decide if fostering is right for you, first consider how much time, energy, and money you can devote to caring for the pet(s) you'll bring into your home. Take an inventory of your living area—it's important to know if you have enough space for more animals in your home because even dog bowls take up room. Also, keep in mind how easy it is to get attached to pets. While many animal agencies would love to have foster parents keep the animals they've taken in, some strongly discourage foster parents from adopting the pets. Make sure you understand the rules and limitations associated with fostering before taking on the commitment.
Related: Why you should adopt a less-adoptable pet
How to become a foster
Shelters are always looking for volunteers who want to go the extra mile by fostering animals in their home, and some animal welfare organizations don't have a kennel space and rely solely on fosters. If you have a shelter you're interested in working with, contact them and ask if they have a foster program. There are plenty of shelters in your local area to contact. You'll likely need to go in for an interview, and the shelter will probably send somebody to check out your home and make sure it's suitable. In addition, lots of shelters also require to complete a foster orientation program.
Understand the costs
Many shelters will provide the basics you'll need—such as a pet bed, food, and some toys. They'll also cover any medical costs you incur while the animal is in your care. If you have a tendency to spoil your pets though (and really, who doesn't!), do know that extra out-of-pocket expenses you pay will not necessarily be reimbursed. If you're concerned, talk to the shelter before making any purchases. Otherwise, consider any extras you purchase a donation and accept payment in the form of waggy tails, purrs, and happy kisses!
Understand the risks
The vast majority of the unadopted dogs will be pit bulls or some kind of pit mix, and while they may be friendly toward humans, they can attempt to kill other small animals. A history of dangerous behavior is often why they got dumped in the first place. Read more about this in 6 important questions to ask the animal shelter before adopting their puppy.
Saying goodbye is ruff
When it's time for your foster pet to go to their fur-ever home, chances are it will be a little tough for you. If the shelter and new family are okay with it, get all the appropriate contact information and arrange for a future play date or for occasional photo updates. Sure, you'll be sad, but you'll also get the enormous gift of knowing you saved a life. The rewards are worth the difficult goodbyes.
Have you ever been a pet foster parent? Share your experience in the comments.
I had a cute little mixed puppy show up in my country yard. None of the neighbors claimed him. 2 weeks later, I got him into a shelter. Now I’m bawling like a baby. I attached and it hurts.
I'd end up adopting all of them!
Great ideas, but think the animal and person would become to attached, which would be sad for both person and animal.
With fostering you would become too attached to them and not let them go, I know I would, thank you for sharing
I fostered a female bulldog mix found wandering the streets in a rough part of town, who had health issues. I instantly fell in love with her (in spite of the snoring-bulldogs are whoppers) and I was very sorry to have to let her go. But she went to a nicer home so I was OK with it. I adopted another dog from the same shelter so am not lonely, but still think about 'Jackie' to this day. What a great dog!
Moral: Bulldogs are great! Love-at-first sight is great!