If you love pets but aren’t in a position to adopt a dog, have you considered becoming a foster parent? Even if you have dogs at home, you might be able to make room for another dog, to help him transition from the shelter to a new family.
Around Australia, tens of thousands of foster families take in animals that need human contact while they wait for a family to adopt them. Foster families provide much-needed support to shelters, who are usually desperate for the space, and for the animals. Shelters can be stressful, and time away can be a relief for animals who have been surrendered or rescued.
What kinds of animals are fostered?
- Puppies and kittens that are not yet old enough to be adopted out.
- Dogs that have been sick or injured and need to fully recover before they can be adopted.
- Dogs that are long-term shelter residents and need a break from shelter life.
- Those with behavioural problems that need treatment before they are suitable to be adopted.
- Dogs who are waiting for their owners to return from hospital, or whose owners have passed away.
- Animals whose families have been displaced by natural disasters.
- Animals whose families have been displaced by family violence.
- Or just any animal that is waiting for a new home.
Every dog that is fostered is making room in the shelter for other animals and is not using the resources of that shelter, so you’ll find that most animal centres have some form of foster plan.
While every shelter is different, and every day the needs of that centre is different, you will probably find there will be a greater need for foster families who can take in larger and older dogs. Families with high fences, no children and no dogs of their own (or just one well-socialised dog) are usually more in demand.
While you probably won’t be required to be at home 24 hours a day with your pet, you will have to make a commitment of time to your foster dog. If you work long hours, travel a lot or have a big family holiday coming up, it might not be the right time for you to put your hand up to foster a pet.
If you have time and energy on your hands, you will of course need to feed, groom and exercise your foster pet, but some dog foster parents take on bigger roles. For example, if the dog has never been house trained, you might be asked to house train him. There might be behavioural issues he needs help with, such as chewing or jumping, which you will be asked to alleviate with obedience training. The dog might be anxious or aggressive and need socialisation. Or he might have health problems which requires medication or special attention.
To watch a timid, aggressive, unsocialised or unwell dog become a happy, healthy pet ready for adoption is hugely rewarding, but it is a commitment. Is it one you are ready to make?
If you’d like to help, just make contact with your local shelter. The staff there will probably ask you to fill out some forms, and you might be asked to go to the shelter for some basic training. A staff member will probably visit your home to check its suitability, and then you’ll be matched with an animal. It’s a good idea to meet the animal at the shelter first, and you might be asked to bring your children and other pets to meet the foster dog to ensure you all get along.