A successful foster program was crucial to many of the life-saving programs we implemented. First and foremost, a foster program was critical to saving kittens and puppies who were not big enough to thrive in the shelter and had to grow before they could be adopted out.
Getting a litter of kittens – or momma and kittens – out to foster could mean the difference between life and death due to the high odds of getting sick in the shelter environment. There is nothing more delicate or vulnerable than a kitten, which is why Mother Nature makes so many of them. In a foster environment kittens are able to grow healthy and strong, and be socialized to humans. Much, much better than being crammed in a small cage while trying to grow and play.
Just prior to my arrival a small foster program was developed by the lovely and compassionate Dr. Nicole Vigil, whom I eventually promoted to Chief Veterinarian. Dr. Vigil was tired of killing kittens, it was just not the reason she went to veterinary school. Once I arrived, we grew the fledging program by leaps and bounds. Now fosters are used not just to enable kittens and puppies to grow healthy and strong, but for several other categories of at-risk animals, including adult animals needing a place to heal following surgery for broken bones, cats recovering from upper respiratory infection, dogs undergoing heartworm treatment, and animals needing time to recover from various illnesses and trauma. We also created a hospice foster program that places elderly or ill animals in a home so they can live out what remains of their lives in a loving and comfortable environment.
The Foster24Ever Program developed as we continued to evolve. The program helps dogs and cats who are not thriving in the shelter to go into foster homes with families who try to find them a forever home through promotion to friends and family, attending offsite events, and allowing the animals to benefit from socialization and training that are difficult to provide in the shelter.
One element that was critical to building the foster program, was that the dedicated foster folks were assured that the animals they put their heart and soul into would not come back to the shelter and be euthanized. We would move mountains to find that pet a home. Building your foster and volunteer program depends on these dedicated folk knowing that your dedication to saving every adoptable animals matches theirs. Once that becomes obvious to the community your programs will grow by leaps and bounds.
Little by little we found ways to use the foster program to help at-risk animals who entered our shelter and I am eternally grateful to all the kind hearts who stepped forward.