The heartstring-tugging, Sarah McLachlan-soundtracked commercials aside, if you’re like many animal lovers, you may find yourself asking what more you can do to enhance the lives of less fortunate pets. Volunteering your time at local shelters, as well as donating money to animal advocate organizations, are all great ways to get involved. However, there are those who wish for an even more hands-on experience helping animals lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Last week we highlighted the increasing issue of pet homelessness, and this week Wisconsin Pet Care will follow up with why you should consider fostering one of these needy fur friends.
What kind of pet benefits the most from foster care?
All pets benefit from having the comforts of home right from the start. Not only are they socialized to fit in to their forever homes, but they are not caged for days (weeks, or months!). Roaming free, with the ability to play and interact with the world, their way is paved for healthy brain and behavioral development. These factors make the adoption process all the more successful – trained dogs and cats with great social and behavioral skills not only look good on paper, but they tend to adjust quickly to their forever families.
Of course, there are some pets who benefit even more from in-home foster care: Puppies and kittens too young to be adopted, older dogs and cats who may take longer to find forever homes (extended cage stays are no fun), animals with special needs (pregnant/nursing, injuries or illness), those active (or severely stressed) pups and kitties who get nervous at the thought of being held up in a cage (even a day is too long for these guys!), and those who are new to people (or who have experienced the worst in people) and need to re/build their social skills.
What can you expect from a foster care experience?
While each animal will require different amounts of time and energy, you can be sure that your choice to provide foster care for an animal in need is having a positive effect on the world. Not only did you help one dog or cat improve the quality of his or her life, but you will have saved another animal by opening up a space inside the often-crowded animal shelter. Some organizations will help offset the cost of caring for foster pets by providing food, funds, supplies or health care. Contact your local pet foster care organization to find out more. Here are a few that operate within southeastern Wisconsin:
Wisconsin Humane Society: http://www.wihumane.org/volunteer/volunteer-positions/foster
Milwaukee Pets Alive: http://www.milwaukeepetsalive.org
H.O.P.E. Safehouse: http://hopesafehouse.org/site/Volunteer.html
Red, White and Bark!
Of course, since this is the 4th of July weekend, we would be remiss not to highlight a special group of animals that sometimes require foster care: those pets who belong to the brave men and women fighting for our country. If you want to do double-duty volunteering, these organizations will connect you with a pet who needs care while their mom or dad is deployed.
Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pets: http://guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org
Dogs on Deployment: http://www.dogsondeployment.org
Foster care can sometimes be a hard topic to cover because there is the feeling that opening your home (and your heart) to an animal may mean that you become attached – and that has been known to happen. Fortunately, most organizations do give foster parents the option to adopt the pet themselves should this occur. Keep in mind, however, that once a pet under your care has found a forever home, there is a whole group of homeless pets (unfortunately) waiting for the same opportunity.