Approximately 4 million pets are euthanized each year in shelters. Many people who can’t commit to adopting another pet choose to help by fostering. Fostering provides a natural environment in which pets thrive until they’re adopted. Fosters may foster for a weekend while another foster family is out of town or may commit to fostering until the animal is adopted, which can be anywhere from a few days to more than a year.
Kim Smith has been fostering since 2004 and has fostered more than 40 animals, including 30-plus dogs, five kittens, six hamsters, two rats and one rabbit.
“I enjoy the challenge of learning each new personality, trying to bring out the best in that being, and despite copious tears when it happens, seeing them move into a forever home that will provide them with something they need that I can’t provide,” Kim explains. “I fall deeply in love with every foster I have. As anyone will tell you about a relationship, the most exciting part is the falling in love part. I get to do that over and over and over when I foster. And I get the satisfaction of knowing that someone else will get that same feeling with this animal that I have loved. I keep in contact with many of my adopters, and it is so rewarding to hear about the lives my previous fosters have with them.”
“To me, if you have a home that can take an extra pet for days, weeks, months, it’s an easy way to save a life,” she continues. “There is only so much time that any animal can spend in a caged environment before they start losing a piece of their soul. That piece of soul is often the part that will connect them to their forever home. When they lose it, they lose hope and they lose the life they could have had. Foster homes help to preserve this.”
In addition to saving a life, fostering a pet gives you the joys and benefits of having animals around without a lifelong commitment or financial output. Most rescue groups cover all the expenses of the animal while you foster – including food and vet expenses.
Tips for Success
If you are interested in giving fostering a try, ask yourself what type of animal and what age and energy level would be the best fit for you.
For example, while puppies and kittens are cute, they’re usually much more work than older animals – and older animals are often the most in need of help. “Senior pets do not fare well in a shelter environment,” Kim says. “Senior pets have a harder time being adopted. … They are some of the first animals on the list for euthanasia in open admission shelters.”
All types of animals need foster homes. “There are rescue organizations that support dogs, cats, rabbits, pocket pets, reptiles, and birds,” Kim explains.
“The first foster will be the hardest. You will feel, like you should keep this animal, that you aren’t cut out for fostering, that you can’t give them up,” she says. “I cry hard tears for about three days after each foster moves out. … However those three days of pain are completely offset by the joy I had the other days that I’ve had them, the feeling of fulfillment I get knowing that I saved a life and the feeling of anticipation knowing that, in giving up this foster, I can fall in love with a new one all over again.”