According to the American Humane Society, 64 percent of animals who are turned into shelters are euthanized. Although some of the animals must be euthanized for health reasons, aggressive behavior or injury, many are simply put to death because of overcrowding in shelters. April Fels, President of Paws of Tomorrow, a local animal rescue group, says there is a way to save many of these animals. Although the best way to save them is to adopt them, Ms. Fels says that fostering can actually save more animal lives than adoption.
“When you decide to foster a dog, you are giving them the greatest gift you can offer, the gift of life,” Ms. Fels said. “When you adopt, you are giving a home to one dog, but by fostering, you can save many. Both are key factors in saving animals, but fostering gives you the ability to save doggies over and over again.” Ms. Fels said that high-kill shelters often euthanize quickly, making it difficult for someone to save a sweet dog cowering in the corner of a shelter. Fostering gives animals love, support and training needed to make a smooth transition into their adoptive homes.
Paws of Tomorrow focuses on fostering dogs, although there are organizations who specialize in fostering cats. Ms. Fels said that when someone agrees to foster, they take a dog into their home on a temporary basis until the organization can find a forever home. Foster families provide love and support to the dog in order to help the animal adjust to life in a home. Foster families are responsible for food, although Paws of Tomorrow will help when they receive donated food.
“Fosters also provide a critical role in the adoption process,” Ms. Fels said. “Because they know the dogs so well, they can tell us if the dog will fit well into an applicant’s home. This is why we ask them to send us updates, photos and information on their personality. All dogs are evaluated before they go to a foster home so that we can find perfect fosters for them. As the foster gets to know the dog, they can help us by sharing those details to be sure the perfect forever home is chosen for them.”
Fostering a dog is not without negatives, however. Ms. Fels said that fostering is a lot of work as many of the dogs placed with them are stressed, scared and not housebroken since they came from shelters. Many of them have had difficult lives and many found in shelters have not been fully vetted. This is why Paws of Tomorrow feels the foster program is essential to prepare animals for adoption. Fels says that the organization works with the dog before sending them to the foster home and insures they are dewormed, up-to-date on vaccinations as well as spayed or neutered if necessary.
Ms. Fels said that the organization does require the fosters to continue with veterinary visits and asks that the foster uses a specific vet since the agency handles all veterinary costs. They depend on the foster family to house the dog which means taking the good with the bad. Although all dogs are tested when they go into a foster setting, it is difficult to know how the dog will handle being in a new environment.
“In our experience, the bad habits work themselves out quickly because dogs are so eager to please,” Ms. Fels said. “They are smart creatures and are very grateful for the chance they have been given. And, if the situation does not get better after the dog gets comfortable, we will move the dog to another foster home as soon as possible. For example, we may believe that a dog gets along well with cats but a family may find the dog and their cat do not get along. This would be a reason to move the dog to a new foster.”
It is not unusual for a foster family to fall in love with a dog they are fostering and not want the animal to be adopted. Ms. Fels says that they call those families “foster drop outs,” but Paws of Tomorrow is thrilled that the dog has found a forever home with the foster family. She said they work hard to be sure that dogs are not returned to the organization and fostering is like a trial run. People can determine if a dog is a good fit for the home and that the dog will be happy. When a foster family chooses to adopt a fostered dog, Ms. Fels says that it is a happy ending for everyone involved.
There is no fee to be a foster for a dog, but Ms. Fels says that “foster drop outs” must pay the adoption fee if they choose to keep the pet. To become a foster, Ms. Fels says that interested families should complete the form found at www.pawsoftomorrow.org/forms. The organization will then call to discuss the best fitting dog for the home. The foster family comes to meet the dog and takes it home to foster from that point. Paws of Tomorrow keeps in touch with the foster through private Facebook groups, text messages, emails and phone calls. The organization stays in close contact with all fosters and are available 24 hours each day if there is an emergency.
“When you look into the eyes of a dog that was once abandoned, watch them grow under your care and then go to a forever family, it gives you an incredible feeling,” Ms. Fels said. “Fosters say it is the most rewarding thing they have ever done.”
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