Fostering a Dog

April 29, 2020

If you’re thinking about fostering a dog for the first time, it can be an understandably exciting time. If you don’t already own a pet, fostering can be a way to see if your home and lifestyle is a good fit for a permanent fluffy addition to your family. If you do have another pet, it can serve as a way to see how your animals do with a new animal in the home or to give them a friend to socialize with for a bit. And of course, there’s the cherry on top of it all: Saving an animal and freeing up a space at a shelter to save an additional animal. But it can also be daunting. Will you fall in love with the dog? Will it be impossible to give them back? What if it’s not a good fit? There’s so much to consider when thinking about fostering but one of the most important things to keep in mind is this: It’s not the same thing as adopting, despite that being a common misconception.

Pat Deshong, the president of Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch, a not-for-profit, no-kill rescue organization in Florida, says that one of the main differences between fostering and adopting is the time commitment. But although fostering is a shorter-term commitment than adopting, it’s equally impactful.

“A foster home is a much more pleasant place for a dog to wait to be matched with his or her forever family than a cage at a shelter or rescue,” Deshon says. “The dog gets to enjoy the freedom of living in a home amongst people in the interim. It is mutually beneficial.”

So if you’re on the fence about fostering a dog, here are some things Deshon want you to consider first. The good news? By reading this article you’re already doing a little prep work. Though it is different in many important ways, fostering is similar to adoption in one sense: You don’t want to do it on a whim. Doing thorough research about what fostering is, what it isn’t, and if it’s a fit for you is key before doing anything else. All major animal shelters have resources online giving detailed descriptions about their fostering processes. It’s worth looking at national resources first (try the ASPCA’s fostering FAQ page for a start) and then moving on to local resources about fostering before you do anything else. If you’ve ever adopted an animal before, then you know that applications can take a bit of time to get approved and are certainly not instantaneous. Long before you’re hoping to foster, start getting your information together. This includes doing things like picking out your references and giving them a heads up that a fostering agency may be giving them a call in the future. This also is a good time to check the terms of your lease if you rent your home. Are animals allowed? Do you have to pay a pet deposit? These are all very important things to know far in advance of submitting your application.

Not every agency is able to allow someone to foster the very second that their application is submitted and approved. Sometimes it takes weeks to find an animal that is a right fit for you and your home. Having said that, if you know a time in the future that would be perfect for fostering, it’s worth applying far in advance so everything is approved in advance. As New York City-based adoption agency Social Tees writes on its Fostering FAQ page, submitting a thorough application is the first step to eventually being matched with a foster animal.

“Based on your application, we try to match your foster parameters (low energy, under 25 lbs, good jogging partner, friendly with other cats, etc.) with the animals we need to place in foster homes, but we can’t always give you a choice between multiple animals,” the site notes. “Once you’ve submitted the foster application, you can respond to posts on Facebook and Instagram requesting foster help for animals that look like they may be a match for you.”

Dogs all have different needs, and this includes foster dogs. Any foster parent to a pet is responsible for food, toys, water, beds, etc. But foster parents are also sometimes in charge of giving dogs medicine, taking them to vet appointments, watching over them as they recover from surgeries or treatments, etc. If this is a deal breaker for you, then fostering may not be the right fit at the moment.

As the FAQ section on the PAWs site mentions, taking puppies and kittens to regular vaccination appointments is a huge part of fostering young animals. They might be cute, but they’re a lot of work. Foster parents to dogs are expected to provide supplies for their animals (including and especially food), but unlike adopting a dog, these supplies are actually tax deductible. As the FAQ section on Homeward Trails Animal Rescue states, “purchases made for foster care are considered donations to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue and are tax-deductible.” So keep your receipts. As DeShong points out, there are always going to be “foster fails,” which means the foster family falls in love with the dog and decides to officially adopt it.” But, according to the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society, going into fostering thinking that it is a trail run to see whether or not you like that particular dog is the wrong mind set. It’s important to realize that in most cases, the dog will be up for adoption to the public for the entire time you are fostering it. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be a good experience to see if you’d like to adopt a dog someday, but in general it’s best to remember that your home is not a permanent situation for the dog at all.

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