When we decide to bring a pet into our homes, we should be willing to accept all the responsibilities and rewards that accompany it. Whether you’re a dog, cat, or exotic pet person, we all know the joys that come with having that other living soul in our house. I have had pets for most of my adult life. Having Fido or Frisky purring or wagging their pleasure at seeing you makes your worst afternoons seem golden. Before you take on the responsibilities of a pet, however, you need to consider your situation. Pets cost money! After the initial fee for adoption or purchase, there are costs for food, regular veterinary care, toys, collars, leashes, and those rhinestone studded sweaters if you are so inclined. Inevitably, your pet will get sick, hurt, or just do something plain stupid, like eat a box of Godiva chocolates, and you will have emergency vet bills. I have easily spent more on vet bills for my dogs than I have for my own health care over the last five years. If you have room in your heart for a pet, but no room in your wallet, there is another alternative. You can make a huge difference in a pet’s life by opening your heart and home by becoming a foster parent.
I have been on the board of our local humane society for nine years. One of the greatest needs for most animal welfare organizations is foster homes for animals who need socialization or who are awaiting adoption. If you are on the fence and not sure if you have what it takes to own a pet or if you are not in a financial place to be able to afford one, fostering is a wonderful option. It is also a great way to try out a particular breed if you are interested in a certain type of dog or cat. Most breed rescue groups allow fostering if you qualify. If you think you’d love one of those cute Jack Russell Terriers that seem so smart on TV, you may be able to foster one. If you can keep up, this might be the dog for you. If he runs you ragged, maybe a nice, fat cat would work better. Are you ready to volunteer and send in your application yet?
The first step is to contact your local humane society or animal shelter. Even if they don’t offer a foster program, they can point you to other organizations that do. There are always more pets awaiting homes than there are homes available. Once you are in contact with an organization, you will have to qualify. Basically, they need to know that you have a safe place for the pet. The organization will also have to get approval from your landlord if you are renting. If the foster is a large or active dog, you may be required to have a fenced yard. If you have small children, you most likely won’t get a new puppy or breed that might be aggressive. This is also a time for you to let the organization know what works for you. Some foster opportunities are only for short term emergency situations. Others are with the agreement that you will keep the pet until it gets adopted. If you live in a 750 sq foot apartment, you most likely won’t get a Great Dane. You also need to commit to taking care of the pet’s basic needs by providing food, water, shelter, exercise, and socialization. You might have to agree to transport your foster to adoptathons or meet and greets if a potential adopter is available.
Are there monetary costs to becoming a foster pet parent? Absolutely not! The organization placing the pet covers all expenses. That being said, you don’t get carte blanche. Generally have to take the pet to approved veterinarians and coordinate appointments with the organization. You can’t take FiFi in for grooming without approval and then tell the groomer to put it on the humane society’s tab. Generally, when the pet is placed, the organization brings food or litter to get you started, and you buy supplies to replenish, and then submit receipts for reimbursement. Foster organizations are so happy to have good foster families, they are usually very generous with reimbursement for unexpected expenses. The group I am involved with has paid for several episodes of collateral damage, including chewed up shoes, trashed window screens, and carpet cleaning.
So what’s the catch? If this all sounds like a pet owners dream, remember the cons of becoming a foster parent. This animal that you have taken in, cared for, or nursed back to health, is looking to find a forever home. Eventually, someone will want to adopt him. If you can view it as providing a temporary oasis for this poor soul until someone can adopt him, you’ll do fine. If you get easily attached and will need therapy when the pet leaves, this might not be for you. I am personally a terrible foster parent. if you have four legs and make it past my front door, you probably won’t ever leave! I’ve gotten my last two dogs from trying to foster. It takes about two weeks before no one on the planet is good enough to adopt this pet.
Fostering a pet is a wonderful way to test the waters of ownership before you take the plunge. You can potentially “try it before you buy adopt it” and see if you have what it takes to be a forever family. Fostering also gives those on a budget a way to get the benefits of pet ownership without the costs. For the pet, any time spent in a loving home, even if temporary, is much better than being in a cage with a cement floor. Fostering may not make you rich monetarily, but it does promote your good karma to the millionaire level! If you have other specific questions, I have seen or experienced almost every foster situation, and would love to provide you with the answers to get you started.