Foster Care FAQs
Learn more about Volunteering at Homeward Pet here.
What is foster care? Homeward Pet’s foster care families provide temporary, in-home care to needy animals for a variety of reasons, including puppies needing extra socialization, young kittens needing to grow big enough for adoption, a dog recovering from surgery or a cat recovering from an illness. Foster care can range from a two-day “kennel break” for a dog to a cat needing long-term hospice. Every placement is subject to the foster family’s approval and availability.
Why is foster care important? Foster care is important for many reasons: animals recovering from surgery get a quiet place to rest and rehabilitate; animals can get help with behavior and training; animals who haven’t had the opportunity can learn how to be part of a family; and sometimes there just isn’t enough space at the shelter to care for all the animals that need our help. Plus, we get great feedback from our foster families about each animal they care for, which helps us make a better match to an adopter. Every year, our amazing foster families care for over 500 cats and dogs that may not have had the chance to find their forever homes without a stay in foster care.
How do I become a Homeward Pet foster family? If you’re interested in becoming a Homeward Pet volunteer foster family, please fill out our Volunteer Application. After reviewing your application, you’ll be invited to attend General Orientation/Foster Care Training, held once a month.
Who can become a foster care volunteer? Anyone who has the room, is physically able, and is willing to devote the time and energy required to care for a foster animal. The primary foster caretaker must be at least 18 years of age. You must be allowed to have animals in your home, be within reasonable driving distance, and be able to transport a foster animal to and from the shelter.
As an organization that advocates spaying and neutering to help prevent pet homelessness, the pets of foster care volunteers should be spayed or neutered.
Fostering is also a great way for families to become involved, especially those with children too young to become Homeward Pet volunteers. We always try to make the best match between the foster family and the animal needing in-home care, taking into account experience, size, age, etc. You do not need previous pet experience.
How long are animals in foster homes? The time commitment varies with each animal placed into foster care. Some of our dogs may only need a “kennel break” for a couple of days, and very young kittens may need to be in foster care for 2 months before they’re big enough to return to the shelter for adoption. Occasionally, we might be seeking long-term hospice care for one of our animals. Every placement is subject to the foster family’s approval and availability.
How does the foster program work? Once you’ve attended orientation, completed Foster Care Training, and upon review of your Foster Home Questionnaire, you’ll receive emails about animals that are currently in need of foster care. When you see an animal that you feel would be a good fit for your home and lifestyle, you respond to the email. We’ll then contact you directly to discuss that animal’s needs and coordinate their stay with you.
Can I adopt my foster animal? Yes! Foster parents almost always have the first choice when it comes to adopting their foster pet, but must meet all of Homeward Pet’s adoption guidelines and complete our adoption process.
Who provides food, medicine and supplies? Generally, the foster family provides basic supplies, like food, dishes, litter pans and litter, bedding and toys, although supplies may be provided by Homeward Pet in certain cases. Homeward Pet will supply special diets, crates, harnesses and other supplies unique to a specific animal’s foster care. All veterinary care for the foster animal will be provided by the Homeward Pet vet staff, including vaccines, deworming, flea control, spay and neuter surgeries, testing and medications.
Will my foster animal pose any health risk to my current pet(s)? All animals receive a medical exam from our staff veterinarian before being placed into foster care. However, there is always a health risk to exposing your pet to other animals. It is recommended that your pets are current on their vaccinations, maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, and are free from parasites to minimize the risk of contagious disease.
Foster kittens, cats, puppies and potentially contagious adult dogs should be kept separate from your pets. You should discuss the risk with your veterinarian. If your pet becomes ill from a foster animal, Homeward Pet is not legally allowed to treat your animal. You will need to pursue vet treatment for your personal pet at your own expense.
How should I prepare for a foster animal? First, fostering is a family endeavor. Make sure that everyone in the family is ready for the responsibility of providing temporary care for an animal in need, including being mentally prepared. For some family members, especially children, it may difficult to return the pet to the shelter for adoption.
Second, decide where your foster animal will reside. Cats and kittens should be kept in a separate room from your pets and must be kept indoors at all times. Young puppies should also be kept separate from your pets, in a room or indoor pen. Adult dogs can socialize with resident dogs, under your supervision and after a proper introduction, but should have a place—a room or crate—where they be separated from other animals in the home, if needed. Make sure these spaces are dog- and cat-proofed.