Fostering animals saves lives. In fact, if just two percent of pet-owning households in the United States fostered one pet each year, unnecessary euthanasia in shelters could end, according to Susanne Kogut, president of the Petco Foundation. It's a surprising statistic most folks are unaware of, and spreading awareness of this is one of the many goals of National Foster a Pet Month. With millions of pets entering shelters each year, it might not seem like there's much you can do to solve the problem. However, simply committing to being a foster pet parent could have a tangible impact on the lives of homeless pets.
As veterinarians, we want all pets to have loving, safe homes. To that end, we'd like to share some suggestions on how you can contribute during National Foster a Pet Month (and all year long!).
1. Foster a Pet
Fostering a pet is the best way to celebrate this month-long event, and it's easier than you might think. All you need to do is visit a nearby shelter or rescue group and inquire about fostering. When you agree to foster, most organizations will cover the costs of vaccinations, spaying and neutering, and any other necessary veterinary care while the animal is in your possession. This mitigates the financial burden of caring for a pet and makes fostering more accessible to those who may not have the funds to cover veterinary services. And since fostering is temporary, it's an excellent way to experience pet parenthood and determine if it's right for you.
If you already have pets, fostering will have little impact on your life. But it will have a significant effect on your foster pet's life. They'll live in a cozy home instead of a shelter and receive plenty of one-on-one attention. You'll have a chance to teach them good manners, improving their odds of finding a great permanent home. And your current pets will develop stronger social skills. Fostering may seem complicated, but it's pretty simple and rewarding for everyone involved.
2. Support Your Local Shelter
If you can't foster a pet, there are still ways to support your local shelters and help companion animals find loving homes. Follow shelters and rescue groups on social media, and share their posts — especially posts in which they're seeking foster homes for pets. You could also contact them directly and volunteer to help out. Depending on the organization's needs, you may be able to photograph adoptable pets and share them on social media, reach out to prospective foster families and see if they have space to take in an animal, drive pets to their foster homes, etc. Rescue groups and shelters rely on volunteers, so if you contact one to let them know you'd like to lend a hand in honor of National Foster a Pet Month, they'll surely have something for you to do.
3. Spread Awareness
Many animal lovers don't know just how easy it is to foster a pet and how much of an impact doing so has. Spread awareness by posting on social media about the benefits of fostering. Or distribute flyers at dog parks and other pet-friendly places (with permission, of course). Talk to your friends and family members — especially those who already have pets — about fostering. You could even make a presentation at your local library or animal shelter. The options are virtually limitless when it comes to spreading awareness.
How Fostering Helps Pets
Fostering does more than give pets a safe place to stay while they await forever homes. Here are a few reasons to consider becoming a foster pet parent.
Fostering Improves an Animal's Chance of Finding a Home
Being in a shelter is stressful, so it's almost impossible to gauge an animal's personality in these settings. As a foster parent, you'll be the first to uncover an animal's true character, and you can share this information with potential adopters. You'll also get to teach them basic manners to make them more appealing to adopters.
Fostering Improves Social Skills
Pets who spend months or even years in shelters often lack social skills. Without a human family, they sometimes become fearful or aggressive toward people as well as other animals. Spending time in a foster home provides much-needed interaction and helps homeless pets learn how to socialize. If you have other pets, fostering will develop their social skills, too.
Fostering Saves Lives
Overcrowding is a massive problem in shelters throughout the United States. Because of this, roughly 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized annually due to overcrowding. Fostering takes pets out of shelters and places them in loving homes, easing overpopulation and reducing unnecessary euthanasia. Doing so also better enables rescues and shelters to help more animals.
Closing Thoughts on Fostering Pets
There are a lot of misconceptions about fostering. Folks often think they're too busy, don't have enough space, or won't be able to send a foster pet on to their forever home (the infamous foster fails!). While those goodbyes can be tricky, the right organization will help you overcome the challenges and be an amazing foster pet parent. Plus, with the organization's support, fostering is easier and more affordable than you might realize. And if the foster pet isn't a good fit for your family members - furry or otherwise - the shelter or adoption agency will surely work with you to find that pet another more suitable home.
If you've been thinking about fostering, there's never been a better time than now. Contact a local rescue organization today to learn more. And if your short-term furry family member needs veterinary care, we'd be happy to help, so give us a call!