Most pet rescue organizations depend on the availability of foster homes – for their rescued pets - to save the lives of pets that are on “death row” at municipal shelters. Most municipal shelters perform euthanasia on healthy, adoptable pets (cats and dogs primarily) on a daily basis. Most rescue organizations do not get the list of pets on death row until 24 hrs before the animals will be exterminated. This short notice makes the mission and goals of rescue organizations extremely difficult to fulfill unless, they have several pet foster homes lined up to foster rescued pets. Therefore, in most cases, if there are no foster homes available, rescue organizations cannot pull the animals off the “e-list” (or euthanasia list).
What is Pet Fostering?
When you foster a pet from a rescue organization, you open your home and heart to it for a few weeks until the rescue organization finds him a permanent home or, you decide to adopt him or her. In return, while you are fostering the pet, the rescue organization pays for all the expenses required to take good care of a fostered pet, including vet care. Furthermore, the rescue organization takes the foster dog or cat to as many adoption events as available to ensure adoption. Most events take place at popular pet stores such as Petsmart or Petco just about every week.
What happens if I want to adopt the pet I am fostering?
Although the original goal of the pet fostering program has been to provide temporary shelter, love, and care in a home setting for a rescued pet, it is not unusual for some “foster parents” to become “adoptive parents.” Therefore, if you decide that you would like to adopt your foster pet, most reputable rescue organizations will give you first priority over the adoption process than any other candidate. However, once you adopt your foster pet, you become fully responsible for all the needs and expenses incurred by this new family member; just as if you were fostering and then adopting a child. Nevertheless, reputable rescue organizations will be on stand-by to offer you any assistance and support you might that need regarding your new family member to ensure his or her well-being.
Can I stop fostering a pet after I begin?
Unforeseen circumstances happen in everyone’s life. Perhaps, your new foster pet cannot get along with other pets in your family or, your living circumstances change, etc. In that case, the rescue organization will take back the pet from you while immediately looking for another foster home to place him, if none available.
Do I own the pet when I foster it?
No, you don’t. The rescue organization is the legal owner of a fostered pet. In most cases with reputable organizations, before you become a pet’s foster parent, you have to fill out an application, have a home visit, and sign a Pet Fostering Agreement. You keep a copy of that agreement for your records. Once these steps are done, you receive the pet that needs fostering. Therefore, if any accident were to happen while the pet is under you temporary custody, the rescue organization would be the legally liable entity for the pet’s actions and/or status. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning at this point that most reputable rescue organizations will make sure that the animal they are placing in foster care has the right temperament and personality for the foster family and, that he or she has all vaccines up-to-date.
Do I need to pay an application fee to become a foster parent?
No. The application is free. All that the organization asks from you is to temporarily home the pet and give him or her plenty of love.
Am I responsible for potty-training my fostered puppy?
Not necessarily and mostly if you choose to do so. As a general practice, if a foster dog needs some kind of training, the rescue organization will take the pet to a trainer or provide an in-home one.
Can I be involved in deciding what candidate is better fit to adopt my foster pet?
Absolutely. During the time that the pet has been under you care, you have gotten to know him or her better than anyone else. You have a better idea of his needs, temperament, personality, etc. Therefore, if you choose to get involved in the adoption process, your feedback is welcomed and taken into serious consideration when choosing a “furever” home for your foster pet.
What if I incur an expense while fostering the pet? Do I get my money back from the organization?
In most cases, you do. Since the organization takes care of all major expenses for the foster pet, it is unlikely that you will incur any expenses while caring for him or her. However, if you buy a chew toy or treats for your foster pet, it is up to you whether to ask for a reimbursement or not. The organization usually provides you with everything you need including food, bedding, crates, leashes, collars, toys, and whatever special needs items the foster pet might require.
Please, keep in mind that the above are standard practices when fostering a pet. However, some rescue organizations might handle the process and management of the fostering situation differently. Therefore, before you apply and commit yourself to be a foster parent, make sure that you ask the person in charge of fostering what their organization’s policies are.
I hope this answered most of the questions and concerns you might have had regarding fostering a rescued pet.