An Animal Expert Explains Why Pet Fostering is Really Good For You During A Crisis
by Jen Sako
The Covid-19 pandemic created uncertainty and fear worldwide, but many people found solace and joy through fostering a pet.
Although pets enhance our lives and alleviate anxiety even when we aren’t in the midst of a health crises, having a sweet animal companion made the long days of isolating at home more bearable, and definitely cuter.
Back in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, animal rescue expert, Michelle Sherman, elaborated on the other benefits of fostering a cat or dog.
Sherman said she was always “an animal person,” and had been since youth.
She first learned about pet fostering and animal rescue when she was 15 and working as a kennel technician at her local vet clinic.
Eventually, she moved to Chicago and started a dog training business. She also volunteered at the Naperville Area Humane Society where she worked her way up to adoptions specialist. Now, Sherman works for one of the large city municipal shelters while volunteering at Mutt Misfits Rescue Society.
According to Sherman,
“Having a new pet in your home is a lot of fun! It helps keep you moving when maybe you feel like being a couch potato. It helps you feel good because you know you’re the reason why this innocent animal has a roof over their head.”
And, for people who felt isolated, she said,
“We are all navigating this new world of sheltering in place or quarantining. One thing I think a lot of us would agree with is that it can be incredibly lonely and isolating. Bringing a new pet into your home, even if only temporarily, can help elevate our spirits, ward off depression, and keep those quarantine pounds off.
For those of you working from home, it’s a nice change from the daily mundane! I’ve also found that it’s beneficial for my own pets to bring a foster pet into the home. My newest foster, Pippin, has kept my active border collie entertained many nights!”
As an experienced foster pet mom, she encouraged people to try foster-to-adopt programs and get to know a dog or cat slowly before you decide to make them a permanent part of the family.
It helps the animal get to know you too.
“Foster-to-adopt programs have a huge benefit to people because you bring a pet home with the intention of fostering it. You see how they do with your family before making a permanent commitment. If they’re a good fit, you’ll be first in line to adopt! If you’re not a great fit for that pet, or the pet isn’t a great fit for you, it’s easier to let them go get adopted.”
Sherman went into some of a foster programs details:
“Fostering for a rescue or shelter is typically a breeze! With most rescues or shelters you have to apply to become a foster. They will want to know what your living situation is like in order to ensure the animals are placed in environments that are safe for everyone. They may often want to know if you rent or own your home. The reason why this is important is that if you rent, your landlord must be on board with you fostering; otherwise, the animal may be returned to the rescue, who may have no other place to put the animal.”
The next step is to apply and wait for match.
“Once you’ve applied and are approved to become a foster, there is generally an onboarding process. Sometimes this is digital and involves reading an online manual. Sometimes it is an in-person meet-and-greet with staff or key volunteer/foster mentors. Each rescue or shelter has their own onboarding process that works for them! Oftentimes you will have to sign a foster agreement, which often outlines what to do in case of an emergency, who to contact, and that the animals are owned by the rescue until the time of adoption.
Once you are matched with your first foster, many rescues and shelters have private Facebook groups or message boards. The purpose of those is two-fold: one, a place to ask questions of other fosters, and two, a place to share fun photos and videos of your foster pets! The rescue or shelter will ensure the pet is properly vetted, has been spayed or neutered, and is ready to go to their forever home. Once they’re ready for adoption, the foster may be asked to write a biography for their foster pet and supply good photos to be used in advertising the pet.”
Then, you may be asked to bring your foster to adopt-a-thons and other events where they might find a permanent loving home, and be expected to answer questions.
“The foster may also be asked to bring the foster pet either back to a physical shelter for adoptions or to outreach adoption events where the public can see and interact with the pet prior to deciding whether to adopt. The foster is a vital source of information for the pet, including what the pet’s personality is like, what fears they may have, and who they do (or don’t) get along with (e.g., kids, cats, dogs).”
It’s also okay to take a break when you need one.
“Once your foster pet is adopted, you may be ready to take one on right away, but MANY fosters are not. Many need a little bit of time to process the pet leaving their home before they’re ready for their next foster, and that is A-OK!”
The animals benefit too with:
- Lower stress levels
- A safe and stable home
- Safe from euthanasia
- Increased prospects
Her final tips acknowledged that it’s okay to have feelings of attachment and it’s best to have your pet supplies ready in your home for a seamless, stress-free transition for everyone.