1. to help (something) grow or develop
How do I become a foster parent?
The first step is to fill out the Foster Parent Application at the shelter.
A meet-and-greet is required on leash at the shelter between the current resident dog(s) and the foster dog, to ensure there is no obvious friction.
Not all shelter pets necessarily qualify for foster. Pets are assessed on an individual basis, and those requiring further socializing or training, those that are long-term residents or difficult to place, and litters of puppies and kittens that are too young for adoption are qualifying foster candidates. Highly adoptable pets will not be placed in foster care, as they are likely able to quickly find their forever home.
It is highly suggested that you have a spare room if you are fostering a litter of kittens and their mother, as it can be stressful for a nursing mother to comingle with other household pets and in the hustle-and-bustle of a normal household.
What else do I need to know?
Q: Why should I become a foster caregiver?
A: Would you feel good knowing you are making a difference in the life of a displaced pet? A few months of inconvenience turns quickly into an educational, challenging, and satisfying experience you will never forget. Fostering a pet in need of shelter, love, and guidance will be time-consuming, but it is always rewarding! Fostering also helps us evaluate the pet so we can provide as much information as possible to help us place the pet in the perfect home. Providing a "stepping stone" for animals in search of permanent homes saves lives, alleviates the strain on animal shelters, and helps set the stage for successful adoptions.
Fostering litters of puppies and kittens is crucial for ensuring healthy emotional, mental, and social development during their formidable first few weeks and months in the world. By exposing them to lots of different types of people in different situations, as well other animals of their same or different species, they are more apt to develop in to well-rounded and mentally stable individuals.
Q: How old do I need to be?
A: Foster caregivers must be 21 years of age or older. However, we ask you not to enter into this program on a whim. If you are a young adult looking to have fun with a temporary pet companion while you juggle a hectic work and social schedule, or if you live in a noisy household, please reconsider your decision to foster. Foster cats and dogs are frequently under great stress and do best in a quiet environment.
Q: Do I need an extra room for the pet?
A: It’s always a good idea. Some foster caregivers will use a spare bedroom, bathroom, or laundry room for their foster pets.
Q: Will my daily routine be impacted?
A: Probably! You should understand that choosing to be a foster caregiver is a serious undertaking. It will probably change your daily routine and your own companion animals will need to be okay with it.
Q: What else is involved?
A: Being a foster caregiver involves feeding, cleaning, grooming, and playing with the animals. Sometimes, however, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Because many rescued animals are sick, stressed, or frightened, they may require special care. A frightened animal may require weeks of extra attention and behavioral modification to become ready for adoption.
Q: Will my household and lifestyle be a good fit?
A: The health and welfare of all individuals in your home — human and animal — must be considered before bringing in another creature. Fostering a homeless pet should never be considered unless your home environment is happy, safe, healthy, and spacious enough to nurture the foster pet adequately and retain sanity among the existing members of your home. If any of your family members have allergies, excessive stress, other physical or mental health issues, career instability, financial difficulties, or housing or space restrictions, fostering is not a good option for you at this time.
But if you believe you have the ability to foster, and the entire household agrees that fostering would be a positive experience, your next question should be "Do I have the time?" Fostering a shelter pet is a 24/7 job. Although you may not be physically interacting with the pet every second of the day, you will be responsible around the clock for the pet's safety, comfort, and general well-being, and this responsibility alone can be exhausting. If your work or family schedule is already so hectic that adding another time-consuming responsibility will only create more stress, do not consider fostering at this time.
The amount of personal attention needed will vary greatly from pet to pet, but you can expect to spend anywhere from three to seven hours a day interacting with a foster pet, and even more if you're planning to foster puppies or kittens. Teaching dogs or cats the lessons they will need to become happy, thriving, lifelong members of another family is the essence of fostering, and this takes time and patience.
Q: Do I get to choose the pet I foster?
A: Yes, but not all of our animals qualify for fostering. Some of our pets are highly adoptable and we could quickly find them their forever home. We prefer to foster out pets who are older, have been at the shelter for a long time, need further socializing, or require medical attention. We will let you know which pets need foster care, and you can decide if you want to help that pet (or pets). We always want to make sure you are comfortable fostering any pet. We will try to place a pet with you based on the pet’s need, temperament, and match with your abilities.
Q: Can I adopt the pet I foster?
A: Yes, you usually can. It does happen quite often, because it is only natural to become attached to a pet you take care of and nurture. We suspect this is one of the reasons that foster homes are in short supply. If you do become inseparably attached to a foster pet, we hope you will still volunteer to foster other pets in the future.
Q: Will I have difficulty letting go?
A: Anyone who fosters should keep in mind the expected outcome: the pet will be adopted by another family. While it is impossible not to become attached to a sweet dog or cat living in your home, it's necessary to keep your original goals in mind and remain committed to finding the pet a new family. Of course it can be a difficult process for you to let them go, but keep this in mind: Once one rescue has found a good home, that opens up a space for another one to be saved. Admittedly, it is not painless, you do cry, and you miss them. Yet, the pain disappears when another pet arrives from the shelter who needs YOU. The pain is fleeting compared to the wonderful feeling of knowing that YOU truly are saving more than one pet's life by allowing us to have enough foster homes.
Q: What about expenses?
A: Desert Haven Animal Society will cover the cost of veterinary care. Food and supplies would be up to you, because the Desert Haven Animal Society relies 100% on donated food, so we may not have enough to feed our in-house animals. In case of emergency, you would need to check with the Shelter before seeking any medical care. We may request that certain foods be fed to your foster pet. Sometimes a pet may be frightened or nervous and will not eat at first. Eventually the pet will eat. For the same reasons, the pet may have diarrhea in the beginning. In such cases we will advise that the pet be fed a bland diet and ask you to monitor the stool for changes. We also ask that you keep us up to date on any issues that may occur during their stay with you.
Q: I already own a dog and a cat. Can I still foster?
A: While foster dogs may be allowed to interact with your own pets, we usually do not recommend it. This is to prevent fighting and the possibility of any germs being spread. Many of our foster cats have URI (upper respiratory infection), which is highly contagious. We will tell you when we know a pet is contagious and you can always decline. Your own pet(s) will need to be all up to date on all shots. You may wish to ask your veterinarian if your pets need any additional vaccinations. If you do plan to have your foster dog mingle with your own, bear in mind that some dogs will fight over the pecking order and temperaments may not coincide.
Q: What happens when I arrive home with my new foster pet?
A: When introducing a pet to a new environment, do so gradually. Remember that the pet might be frightened and could bite, run away, scratch, or cower in a corner. Depending on the pet and his/her history, there may be incidents of housebreaking issues, damage, and/or barking. Please be forewarned and “animal proof” your home. If you have other pets already in the household, bear in mind that some dogs will fight over the pecking order and temperaments may not coincide. Be sure to slowly introduce the dogs, even if they did appear to get along well during the meet-and-greet at the shelter. Do not leave your pets and the foster pet alone together at any time. If you have children, we request that you monitor their contact with a foster pet at all times. We cannot guarantee any pet’s behavior and this will help to protect both the child and the pet. Foster pets are under a lot of stress and do best in a quiet environment.
Q: Can I take my foster pet outside?
A: No foster pet should be outside unattended or unrestrained. No cat should ever be allowed outside for any reason unless it is in a carrier. If you feel you cannot go along with this, you should not foster because the foster animal’s life will be compromised. Please do not attempt to take our dogs to any public places without permission. Some dogs are very fearful and will not do well. They may bite or try to bolt. Please do not use retractable leashes. They are difficult to use with untrained pets, and easy to drop, causing the pet to become frightened.
Q: How will I know if my foster pet needs medical attention?
A: Some of our pets may be sick and recovering from illnesses. We will make every effort to inform you of the condition, if known before you take them. And, we ask that you call or email us if you have any concerns.