If you've ever thought about fostering a shelter dog, this story is for you: it blows apart four common myths and demystifies the process!
- by LB Kovac, photos by Ellis Anderson
She’s a current board member of FOTAS and organizer of the shelter’s weekly adoption, which takes place every Saturday at Pet Smart. Having worked in so many roles in the shelter and in the foster community, she has a unique insight into the truths, and myths, of fostering animals.
Myth 1) I don’t have enough money
Costs can easily add up when owning a pet. Even small dogs or cats require some combination of food, crate or kennel, toys, and space to play.
As a pet parent, you would shoulder most of these expenses on your own. But, as a foster parent, those costs are shared with a community. The shelter and FOTAS distribute donated food, toys, leashes, and other necessities among foster parents, helping to defray costs.
And what could be the most expensive part of pet ownership – veterinarian visits - are provided free through the shelter. “There’s a vet on staff, if your foster animal needs medical services, and you have access to worming medication and flea and tick preventatives, among other things.”
2) I can’t because I have other pets or kids
An important part of the fostering process is getting animals ready for experiences outside of the shelter. In the shelter, animals spend much of their time in the kennel, but, outside in the big ol’ world, they encounter all kinds of strange noises and sounds and smells. Being socialized early on, in a safe environment, will ensure that the animal can thrive once it gets to its forever home.
“We welcome fosters with families and pets,” says Hines. “They can help the animals get used to interacting with other cats and dogs.”
There are some preventative measures in place, to make sure that both foster animal and foster family members are all safe and healthy. Along with an application, families or individuals looking to foster an animal must demonstrate that their own pets are spayed or neutered and up-to-date medication.
In turn, the shelter workers do their part to screen animals before fostering, only sending out animals that will work in a foster environment. “We never place an animal that is a medical threat,” says Hines, “and we work to make sure that they have a temperament suitable for other animals or kids.”
3) I’ll be stuck with it forever
Although some foster situations do turn into adoptions, not every foster needs to be a lifelong commitment. Some fosters are just for a few days - think pet hotel.
The Hancock shelter participates in a rescue transport program, which matches adoptable animals with potential pet owners all over the country.
Before these animals “fly” to their new home, they need a place to stay – a hotel room, if you will. Willing fosters can take these animals for a few days “vacation,” so they can relax while waiting to be transported.
The shelter also sometimes experiences overcrowding. When space is limited, workers look to fosters to take extra animals until some are adopted or transported.
“Some fosters do take much longer,” says Hines, “but the typical case lasts less than 10 weeks.”
4) They don’t need me to foster
Fostering is, according to Hines, “critical to the shelter.” Without the work of fosters, animals would die.
Like all shelters, the Hancock shelter strives to be a no-kill shelter. However, the shelter is constantly walking a very thin line.
“Adoption rates in this area are high, but intake numbers are also high,” says Hines. In the past, the shelter has been lucky to find short-term fosters who could take in animals until others were adopted or transported out of state.
If the numbers were to tip just a little – say a few less adoptions one month, or a few too many animals found wandering the streets the next – the shelter wouldn’t have enough space or resources to provide for the animals. “We rely on the fosters; if not for them, some of these animals would have to be put down,” says Hines.
If you’re interested in fostering an animal, you can contact the shelter through their website or by calling (228) 466-4516. You can also check the shelter’s Facebook page for up-to-date information about emergency foster situations.
To all those who do support the shelter’s efforts, Hines has this to say: “This community is great about letting others know about the needs of the shelter… I love those animals, and I love our volunteers.”