An animal fosterer is someone who temporarily takes in a needy animal and cares for it until it is ready either to return to its home or be adopted.
Fostering an animal is a wonderful and rewarding experience. Taking an animal into your home, caring for them and watching them become healthy and happy gives you a very special feeling. The volunteer role of a fosterer is a crucial one and can make a huge difference to the rehabilitation of an animal and their chances of finding an adoptive family.
There are several reasons why an animal might need a foster home. Some animals need a temporary home while waiting to be adopted. Some animals need one-to-one care or perhaps they do not cope well in an animal centre environment. Still more are temporarily placed in foster homes to help families who are suffering from domestic abuse to give them time to get their lives back together.
Being an animal fosterer is voluntary work, although most organisations that have animals that need foster homes will provide all of the basic supplies one would need to foster an animal. This often includes travel carrier/crate, litter/puppy pads, toys, food and blankets. All of the animal's medical needs are also usually taken care of by the organisation you are working with.
So long as you have the time and dedication, anyone can become an animal fosterer. When considering becoming an animal fosterer, it is important to take into account your schedule, your home environment, and your willingness to give a significant portion of your free time to your foster animal.
If you have a full-time job, fostering puppies might not be for you, as they need to be let out and fed every few hours. However, an adult dog could be left crated for a portion of the day, which could work for someone with a full-time work schedule. Kittens also tend to need less attention, so they could be ideal for someone who works full-time providing they are kept in a safe room with everything they need and given a lot of attention and care when you are at home.
Here are some qualifications that some organisations may require:
- proof of spay or neuter and current vaccinations for other animals in the house
- a separate room to isolate the foster animal
- proof of time to care for foster animals
- access to transportation
- attendance at a foster orientation class
- Animal handling experience
- Time and commitment
- Dependability and punctuality
- Patience and affection
Before your foster animal arrives, the foster coordinator at the organisation you are working with will give you an estimated amount of time you will need to care for the animal.
If you are caring for new born animals, once you return your foster animal to be spayed/neutered, they usually remain at the facility and are put up for adoption. For puppies, this is at eight weeks for males and twelve weeks for females. Kittens are normally returned for surgery when they weigh one and half kilos. If a foster animal is recovering from orthopaedic or dental surgery, the foster timeline can be anywhere from two to eight weeks.
The animals that require fostering are not at their best. They may be messy, unappreciative of their daily medication and the care and attention they need may not fit into your normal routine, so you may need to adjust your schedule specifically for the care of the animal.
No experience is necessary to register to become an animal fosterer. However, some organisations may require potential foster families to attend a free foster orientation class that gives the potential animal fosterer valuable information, including that specific organisation's policies and procedures as well as housing guidelines and foster timelines.
Some organisations even allow children 18 and younger to apply to be an animal fosterer, and some families may find this an attractive option rather than fully adopting an animal from the start. In these cases, both the child and the parent may be required to attend the foster orientation, with the parent filling out all of the final paperwork.
Usually foster animals are returned to the organisation that placed them into your home. However, if you fall in love with your foster animal and that animal is eligible to be adopted, fosterers will usually receive priority on adopting the animal in their care. Additional rewards of being an animal fosterer include:
- the satisfaction of knowing you were directly responsible for saving an animal's life
- the joy of raising kittens and puppies for a few weeks without the responsibility of a longer term commitment
- giving children an opportunity to work on a family project which is fun and teaches responsibility
There are many local and national foundations and organisations that could use your help in fostering an animal. If you are having a difficult time locating an organisation in your area, you can contact the national charity, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). There are also many worthy smaller local organisations that could also use your help and it may be beneficial to spend some time researching your options. Charity Choice is a comprehensive website directory that includes a special section devoted to animal welfare organisations.
Animal Welfare Resources
Pets Located is a unique online service designed to reunite missing pets with their owners across the United Kingdom.