Foster Care Month: Fostering Saves Lives

Fostering saves lives.

While this sentence seems so simple and almost cliché in a world where social media has brought animal welfare awareness to the forefront of everyone’s minds and newsfeeds, it couldn’t be a truer statement. Fostering saves lives.

Dog at poundMost people know that homeless animals usually end up in a municipal animal shelter, also known as the local pound. There are two ways that animals can make it out of local shelters alive: either by direct adoption or by going to an animal rescue organization. Animal rescues are a wonderful way to help shelters alleviate overcrowding and get dogs into a safe environment to decompress, gain confidence, get healthy, and then be adopted out to the perfect forever family. This helps shelters from having to euthanize for space. But just like shelters, rescues also have a limited amount of space. This is where the importance of foster families comes in.

Rescue organizations can come in many forms, but the two most prevalent are rescues like the larger SPCAs or humane societies that have a kennel facility and smaller, foster-based rescues. Both do important, live-saving work, and both never seem to have enough foster homes. Yes, even rescues that have their own building and means to house dogs and cats need foster families, too! But for a smaller, foster-based rescue, their foster volunteers are the absolute cornerstone upon which their whole organization is built.

Amberly Eels, Deputy Animal Control Officer for Amelia County, Virginia, explains the importance of fostering and the impact it has on shelters, rescues, and the animals they save this way, “Fostering has proven effective and beneficial for everyone involved in the adoption process. Shelters rely on rescues to transfer dogs and cats so they can be adopted into loving families. Foster-based rescues allow for better assessments of pets before adoption which greatly reduces the chances of the pets being returned. It is a simple formula really, the more foster homes available, the more lives saved.”

Happy ears dog grass head side_CrMaybe you’ve considered fostering in the past but never pursued it for one reason or another or maybe this is the first time the idea of safe-housing a shelter or rescue animal has ever crossed your mind. Either way, know that if you decide to foster, even just once, that you will be responsible for saving the life of a dog or cat in need. Actually, it is often said that fostering an animal actually saves two lives, the life of the animal you foster and the life of the animal that can now take its place in the shelter or rescue. So how cool would it be to return to work next Monday and when one of your coworkers asks what you did over the weekend you can casually answer, “Oh, you know, just saved two lives.” And, boom, you’re the office hero!

Foster homes are the backbone of any rescue, and the true heroes of animal welfare. It is such a beautiful thing to see a dog that was once sitting in a concrete cell on death row go on to live a safe, happy life with its perfect family, knowing that you played such a vital role in its journey to happily ever after. The word fulfilling doesn’t even begin to describe the rewards you get when you give the gift of life, love, safety, and comfort to a dog or cat who may never have experienced those things before. We encourage everyone to give fostering a shelter or rescue animal a chance, and to take some of the guesswork out of the process, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about fostering an animal in need.

foster puppy dress up

What if I get too attached?
Well, if you truly get that attached to an animal you foster, you always have the option to adopt it yourself. HOWEVER, most fosters find that meeting the new family, talking with them about their lifestyle and the animal’s likes and dislikes, seeing the excitement in their eyes, and therefore being able to feel confident that it is a good match, eases the anxiety of having to let your foster move on. Knowing that your foster dog or cat is moving on to a wonderful life with a wonderful family and now you are free to do it all over again and help save the next one is an amazing feeling. In fact, any tears you might shed at the adoption are always tears of joy and not those of sadness or loss.
If this is something that is holding you back from fostering, then do your research. Make sure the rescue you choose is one that has a thorough screening process for potential adopters and lets the fosters weigh in on such decisions. Adopters are usually more than happy to stay in touch and send frequent updates of their new dog or cat. Many new friends are made this way.

What if I work full time?
That’s okay. Animals in need come in all shapes and sizes and walks of life, so there is always someone that will fit your lifestyle. If long hours are often a part of your schedule, then perhaps consider fostering a famously self-sufficient cat. Or maybe there is an older dog that doesn’t want to do much other than nap on a comfortable dog bed most of the day and just needs a place besides the shelter to do just that. Dogs and cats are as varied as people, and if you talk to your local rescue groups and explain your schedule, they can help match you with the animal that will fit into your life as seamlessly as possible.

I’d like to foster, but I’m worried the cost of having another pet in my home would get too expensive.
This is a common concern but completely unfounded. Most rescues pay for EVERYTHING including all veterinary expenses, food, supplies, preventatives, and anything else that your foster pet may need. Rescues realize that pets are expensive, and they try very hard not to burden their foster volunteers with additional animal expenses. If there is something you need, just ask!

What if I travel a lot?
This is okay, too. Again, there are so many animals and so many needs that if you discuss your schedule with your local rescue or shelter, they are likely to work with you. Either they have “vacation fosters” that can fill in for you when you travel or maybe it works out best that you are a vacation foster yourself. That means instead of having the commitment of fostering a particular animal until it is adopted, you fill in for a weekend here or a week there when the regular foster family is out of town. You are still helping out and playing an important role without quite as much commitment.

What makes the ideal foster family?foster dog please santa
The ideal foster family is anyone that cares for animals and wants to help. Do you have a house full of children? Great. Are you a single person with a quiet home? Great. Do you have several other pets? Great. Do you have no other pets? Great. Do you love hiking and running and staying active? Great. Do you enjoy quiet evenings at home on the couch with Law & Order reruns? Great. There is no perfect formula for the perfect foster home. No two animals’ needs or wants are the same, so neither is the ideal foster family. As long as you can provide love, patience, and safety, then you’re an ideal foster family!

I don’t know. I’m still on the fence about fostering.
Repeat after me: I’m saving a life. Again. Out loud this time. I’m saving a life. Two lives actually.
Now let that sink in. By fostering you’ll be saving lives. You’ll be saving lives without the long-term commitment or expense of owning another pet. It’s like grand-parenting. You can snuggle and smooch and enjoy the dog or cat and then send it off with its new owners. You get all the joy of pet ownership without the actual ownership.
Have I mentioned that you will also be saving lives in the process?

How do I get started?
Congratulations! You’ve made a great choice to save a life by fostering an animal!
Go to, the Number 1 website for rescue and shelter animals to be advertised for adoption. At the top of the page, click the Shelters/Rescues tab and then click Find a Shelter or Rescue Group. You can put in your location, and Petfinder will connect you with all the shelters and rescue groups near you. Most rescues will have details about fostering for their particular group right on their website. Reach out to several rescue organizations in your area and do your research so that you find the organization that best suits you.

If you are in the Richmond, VA area and want to foster, simply email fosters(at)


sanctuary rescue top

This is a guest post from our friend Adri Herron of Sanctuary Rescue, a local rescue organization who has received charitable dog treats and supplies from Best Bully Sticks. Thank you to Adri for sharing with our readers the importance of fostering a pet!


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