By Mary Nee
For any animal shelter, a reliable, responsible, and experienced foster care network is invaluable. While the majority of dogs and cats that come to the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) find new homes in a matter of days, there are times when an animal needs time away from a shelter setting – and that’s where foster parents come into play.
When you open up your heart and home as a foster parent, you’re freeing up precious shelter space for other animals in need. But you’re also giving the animal the personalized attention, care, and love they need and setting them up for success when they’re ready for a forever home.
Foster animals come in all shapes and sizes – dogs and cats, of course, but also horses, pigs, and other livestock, and rabbits and other small animals.
Foster commitments can range from a week to several months and typically involve animals that may have a medical condition that needs monitoring, are shy, or have experienced trauma and need care and support for a short period of time.
Spring marks the beginning of kitten season, and there will be cases where foster parents seeking a more challenging assignment are needed for homeless newborn kittens. This entails around-the-clock bottle feeding every 3-4 hours, litter box training (and assistance with going to it), and providing a safe, warm area for the kittens to nestle.
Additionally, animals that are involved in a pending animal cruelty trial must be held as evidence and are typically sent to foster care instead of a shelter.
A shelter environment can be stressful, and a foster home can go a long way to alleviate that stress. It also allows for an opportunity to assess behavior in a home setting that can help determine the type of home the animal would be best suited for.
Being a foster parent also requires patience and understanding for the animal’s specific needs. This means exercising positive reinforcement and understanding that the occasional accident, chewing, or scratching incident is a likely possibility.
The benefits for shelter animals who spend time in foster care are immeasurable and while it can be a challenge, the real reward is knowing that you have given a deserving opportunity to an animal in need.
Mary Nee is the President of the Animal Rescue League of Boston and resides in Dorchester. Pet questions? Email ARL at firstname.lastname@example.org.