Why Do Foster Programs Work?

Foster programs can be life saving for a large number of animals. Millions of animals every year are spared euthanasia when they are moved to foster homes from a shelter environment or able to avoid the shelter altogether.
Brown cute dog portrait

Disease Prevention

Foster programs prevent vulnerable animals from becoming sick in a shelter environment. 

Puppies, kittens and seniors are incredibly susceptible to common shelter illnesses including Parvovirus, Kennel Cough, Panleukopenia, which can easily kill them and exist in even the most well-run shelters. These illnesses are often very expensive to treat in young animals. 

Placing these animals in foster homes greatly decreases their chances of infection.

Behavioral Challenges

Thousands of cats and dogs lose their lives every year when they display concerning behaviors that the stressful shelter environment brings out in them. The smells, the sounds, and the confinement of shelters can create high levels of stress, anxiety and fear in animals resulting in behaviors often deemed as aggressive. Dogs may snarl and lunge in their kennels, cats may swat and bite. 

However, when removed from the shelter environment, many of these animals prove to be friendly, calm and engaging. Many animals are never given that opportunity.

Foster programs truly help to showcase the animals in their best and most accurate light. By allowing an animal to be placed or redirected into a foster home, a shelter sets that animal up for success versus failure.

Creates Space for Other Animals

Shelters reach their capacity frequently, especially during specific times of the year like kitten season (at its peak from April to August in Virginia). When a shelter is at capacity the result can be deadly for many animals for many reasons. 

First, shelter staff is faced with having to decide what animals live and die based on space. A full shelter has virtually no wiggle room should a large influx of animals enter the shelter due to, for example, a hoarding or neglect case or natural disaster. This results in adoptable animals being euthanized needlessly simply to make room for those incoming. 

Second, the more animals in a shelter the less attention they get for enrichment and stress-reducing activities like walks, playgroups, one-on-one time with staff and volunteers. 

For every animal that goes to a foster home, a space is created for an animal that arrives at the shelter without an alternative place to go. 

Cost Savings

Sheltering animals can be expensive, especially with health outbreaks. Even the most common shelter illnesses are often contagious, and while some are not life-threatening (ringworm, for example), they can cost a great deal of time and money to address. 

If a shelter’s budget cannot accommodate the treatment, then decisions might be made to euthanize simply for budgetary reasons. Placing animals in foster care greatly decreases health outbreaks and can minimize medical costs greatly.

Foster programs also engage community members who often are able and willing to provide supplies like food and bedding, costs that most shelters must carry on their own.  Money saved on items like food can be put to use for medical treatment, thus saving more lives.

Decreases Length of Stay

Foster programs often result in a much shorter stay for an animal under a shelter’s care, which is best for the animal and more economic for the shelter. 

Foster volunteers are great marketers of their foster animals and can be instrumental in finding their foster animal an adoptive home much sooner than if the animal was in a shelter. By knowing the animal’s true behavior, the foster can represent the animal to the community and to their own network to assist in finding an adoptive home. 

Shorter stays for animals mean that the cost of caring for that animal is minimized, thus contributing to budget savings!

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