Fostering a homeless animal can be a mutually beneficial experience for both the foster family and the animal. Foster homes help alleviate overcrowding situations in local animal shelters and also help provide animals with the nurturing human contact they need in order to overcome physical and emotional traumas.
Foster homes are mostly needed to care for young puppies and kittens that have been orphaned, animals recovering from surgery or other injuries, and animals that are overly stressed by the kennel environment at shelters. In addition to the everyday needs, such as food and water, foster homes may be responsible for basic training, behavior modification, socialization, temperament evaluation and medical care, according to FosterDogs.com. Most shelters assume financial responsibility for the animal's food and medical care while in foster care.
The length of time an animal needs to remain in foster care is dependent on the animal's physical and mental condition. If the animal is recovering from a surgery or serious health-related condition like treatment for heart worm, the animal can leave foster care immediately upon recovery. Animals that have suffered mental abuse may need to be fostered for a longer period of time as they continually learn the social skills necessary before they can be placed up for adoption.
Foster homes that already have a resident pet should introduce that pet to the incoming foster animal in a neutral environment, such as a public park. Also, to avoid territorial fighting, separate living and sleeping quarters for each animal may be necessary during the first few days. Potential foster families should consider the daily time investment required to nurture and socialize homeless animals, and should also be prepared to transport the animal to the veterinarian and adoption events.
Certified canine trainer and behavior counselor, Melissa Bahleda, warns potential foster families that they need to remember the living situation is only temporary, despite the attachments that will inevitably form. "Anyone who fosters must be realistic about the expected outcome: that the animal will be adopted by another family," she said. "For each pet who is adopted by his foster family, one fewer foster opportunity exists, which translates into fewer animals being given a wonderful chance at life in a real home."
After investing so much time into the care of a foster animal, it can be hard to deal with its departure. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recommends that the foster home provide as many details about the pet to the shelter in charge of its adoption. According to the ASPCA, this might help alleviate some of the sadness when it's time to let go because it will ensure the foster pet is matched with a suitable family.