In early 2020, as many American families were forced to isolate and shelter within their homes, demand for new pets reached an all-time high. However, while millions of American families looked to adopt, overall adoptions and rescues fell from 1.9 million in 2019 to 1.6 million in 2020, according to Shelter Animal Counts. How could Americans end up adopting fewer animals during the pandemic than the year before? Experts now know it is because there were simply not enough adoptable pets to go around.
In 2022, animal shelters and adoption agencies are now facing a new issue – a wave of returned animals. While many families were excited to adopt animals during the early months of the pandemic when work-from-home conditions were ideal for animal adoptions, now that workers are returning to the office, families are also returning their pandemic pets. As a result, more and more Americans are signing up to foster these animals, while animal shelters look for suitable “forever homes.”
George William Carris, a long-time foster parent, has witnessed this spike in returned animals first-hand and is thrilled to see many new-fosterers stepping up to help. However, before committing to the major responsibility, which is fostering, George William Carris hopes to provide those considering fostering with the following advice.
Recognize Your Limitations
Taking care of any animal is a full-time job, and like any other job, requires candidates to meet certain qualifications. Fostering a pet requires a great deal of time, money, and physical effort. Although fostering an animal can have a lot of benefits not only for the animal but for the fosterer, fostering is not for everyone. It is important when considering fostering to first recognize your own limitations and decide whether or not you can responsibly take care of another animal in your current living environment. Things to consider include:
Time – Do you currently have the free time needed to take care of another animal? Most animals require a great deal of time from walks to socialization; fostering an animal is often not a job that can be done simply after work. Those who have a job that takes them away from home for long hours or requires extensive travel may not be suited for fostering. Additionally, if an individual does not have the time to walk their animal daily, fostering an adult dog or high-energy breed may not suit you. However, this individual may be better suited for fostering a cat or another animal that does not need the same level of physical exercise.
Space — Every animal is unique in what they need to be happy and healthy. For example, a large dog may need a 200 sq ft fenced-in backyard to live a happy and active lifestyle; however, a kitten will not need the same amount of free-roaming space to be content. When considering your own fostering limitations, it is crucial to take stock of your current living situation and ask yourself if you have enough space to foster a specific animal. While a bathroom may be an ideal amount of room for a small litter of kittens, an Australian Sheppard would need a large home with a fenced-in yard to live happily.
Physical —From lifting heavy pet food bags to daily 5 mile walks, fostering can require a great deal of physical effort from foster parents. Before agreeing to foster an animal, it is crucial that those considering fostering acknowledge their own physical limitation and what animals may not meet their fitness level.
Consider All Angles
Fostering an animal is a great way to save an animal’s life and provide then a safe and loving environment. One of the most common reasons a person becomes a foster parent is because of their love for animals and their generosity. However, one of the side effects of these good intentions is loving your foster pet a little too much. Many former foster parents refer to themselves as “failed fosters” because they decided they would adopt their foster animals instead of putting them up for adoption. While there is nothing wrong with adopting an animal in need, it does pose certain challenges for the foster parent fostering again in the future. If one household has a finite amount of room and resources, adopting one animal that lives for ten years could be considered the equivalent of fostering 20 pets in that same time span. Simply put, a foster parent can help more animals than they can keep full time.
Before considering fostering, candidates must ask themselves a variety of hard questions. In addition to considering the likelihood of becoming a “failed foster,” candidates should also consider:
- Whether or not you would be comfortable fostering an animal on short notice? Typically foster parents may be asked to foster an animal within 24 hours if an emergency case appears.
- How many animals can you foster at once?
- Can you foster an animal with behavioral issues such as biting or scratching? Would you be comfortable caring for an animal with major medical issues?
- If you rent your home, does your lease allow you to have a certain number of pets? Would you be able to foster a dog that weighs over 25lbs?